This Is Raiders DC Paul Guenther’s Year

Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther fielded awful defenses the last couple of years. He didn’t have much talent to work with, but that has slowly changed.

Guenther has been in charge of some of the worst defenses in the NFL since he was hired to be the Raiders defensive coordinator. Last season, he oversaw the 19th overall defense, but that can be deceiving as many times, opponents were protecting a lead and had no problem giving away yards as long as Las Vegas didn’t score. Also, they allowed 419 points, which was good for 24th in the league. The year before wasn’t any better.

In 2018, the Raiders defense was caught out of position often and the talent level was even worse than in 2019. In Guenther’s first season with the team, they allowed 6,102 yards and 467 points, good for 26th and 32th respectively. It’s true those two years the Raiders didn’t have many playmakers on defense. In 2018, Khalil Mack was traded before the season started, but even before the defensive standout was sent packing to Chicago, the talent was bare.

Related: How does the Jeff Heath signing affect the safety position?

Last year, the Raiders defense wasn’t as bad as its 2018 counterpart but still was substandard. They had the 27th ranked pass defense. Their secondary was constantly burned and other than rookie Trayvon Mullen, there was nothing but subpar play more often than not. Again, the talent level on defense didn’t help Guenther, as Tahir Whitehead was a liability in coverage and the rest of their linebacker corps didn’t fare any better.

Not Everything Was Bad For The Raiders…

Not everything was bad as there were some signs of encouragement last year. After registering just 13 sacks in 2018, the Raiders had 32 last year. Quarterback takedowns aren’t the only indicator of pressure by the defense but it’s encouraging to see progress in that department. Part of that was because of the addition of rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, who was a defensive rookie of the year runner up. Ferrell should keep improving in year two of his development and the team also added Maliek Collins and Carl Nassib this past free agency to fortify the defensive front.

Reinforcements Have Arrived

Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski joined the linebacker corps and the Raiders could still add even more playmakers in the upcoming draft. Even though it’s uncertain how much of an impact they will have, the unit as a whole will definitely stop being the weakness it was in previous seasons.

The secondary didn’t see as many upgrades as other defensive groups. Their most meaningful additions in free agency were Damarious Randall and Jeff Heath, but the unit could still get an infusion of players in the upcoming draft. Furthermore, Mullen should continue growing and become a core contributor.

The talent is there, it’s now up to Guenther to get the most out of his players and place them in a position to succeed. He might’ve gotten a pass before, but now has the ingredients to put a competitive defense together.

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