Let’s start with the statistics, shall we?
According to Pro Football Reference, Oakland’s defense has yielded 137 completions (out of 191 for a clip of 67.5 percent) for 1,810 yards and 16 touchdowns to three interceptions. The pass rush generated 10 sacks, 32 pressures, 11 quarterback hurries and blitzed 57 times.
The Raiders are 10th overall in points allowed (165 total) and yield the third worst yards per play average (6.3). Only the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals are worse in the YPP category. Not surprisingly, the Raiders are the third worst team in takeaways with five. The Dolphins take the cake with a measly two and the Atlanta Falcons are second with four.
Such esteemed company, no?
All that considered: Does the Raiders’ defensive plight fall on one man?
“No”, Jon Gruden will say.
The Oakland Raiders head coach isn’t about to throw his hand-picked and truly admired defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, under the bus like that.
This is what’ll happen: Gruden will unquestionably back his dear defensive coordinator and troll folk while he’s doing it. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating — Gruden has a doctorate in trolling. That said, he’ll give Paulie G the Derek Carr defense? DC defense — say what!?
Here you go:
Guenther is in the same circumstance as Carr. Paulie G doesn’t have a full complement around him and the coaching changes impede his progress. (Sound familiar?)
Like Carr (who lacked consistent weapons at wide receiver, a big-time running back and a stout offensive line) Gruden can troll and say the lack of continuity is ruining his near and dear defensive coordinator.
Just look at it: Gruden shipped off the lone must-account-for defender for a treasure chest of draft picks that put Paulie G behind the 8 ball from the get-go. Sure, the Raiders added Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abram, Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson via the draft, but defense in free agency was more band aid than long-term players the offense got. Across the board, the roster that’s been handed to Guenther is less-than-ideal. There still isn’t a must-account-for defender. Add into the mix the departure of respected secondary coach Derrick Ansley (now Jim O’Neil’s post) and Brenston Buckner taking over for Mike Trgovac on the defensive line, and there’s a lot of influx, no?
That’s too much adversity for my defensive coordinator to handle and expect to overcome on his own — is what Gruden will say.
There will be another draft — maybe two — and another free agency period — maybe two — to give Guenther the requisite ingredients to run his system. Just look at how peeved Gruden was when the league dropped the hammer on linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Like Guenther, Gruden knows the defense needed No. 55 on the field as both player and extension of Paulie G on the field.
So while Raider Nation remains flummoxed at the sheer tomfoolery Guenther engages in game days (like blitzing Karl Joseph from deep in the backfield and having defensive end Benson Mayowa fill the space the safety vacated which resulted in an embarrassingly easy pass and catch), Gruden can play coy and be equally dumbfounded why he seemingly can’t give his defensive coordinator proper support.
That’s trolling 101, people.