After ‘crygate’ and all the criticism Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has taken, he came out and played well Sunday. He had a hand in all 28 points the Raiders put up against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday and didn’t turn the ball over. When you do that, you’re supposed to win the game.
But the defense, led by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, was horrible as usual Sunday, allowing the Colts to score 42 points. Yes, they lost their best player in Khalil Mack but the defense can surely do better than it has this year. Instead of helping the defense get better by letting the players do what they do best, Guenther is imposing his will on the defense. Edge rusher Bruce Irvin and safety Karl Joseph are being grossly misused.
Irvin made the 2017 Top-100 football players list as a SAM linebacker that can cover, play the run, and rush the passer on passing downs with Mack on the other side. But Guenther moved him to defensive end full time and he isn’t doing so well with three sacks in seven games. Meanwhile, linebacker Tahir Whitehead has been the absolute worst defensive player the Raiders have.
Coming into the game against the Colts, Whitehead was the only LB with 20-plus pass-rush snaps without a pressure and the only LB with 100-plus coverage snaps to allow a perfect passer rating when targeted (158.3). Yet it is Whitehead that leads the team in defensive snaps with 380 according to Pro Football Focus.
Colts’ running backs rushed for 220 yards and caught all four their targets while three of their tight ends scored touchdowns. The Raiders are now the first team in NFL history to give up TD’s to three different tight ends in one game.
Guenther seems to think 2016 1st-round pick Karl Joseph is big part of the problem. He was a great free safety in college with his instincts, range and ball-skills but he’s only 5’10”, no match for 6’4” and above tight ends. So it is no wonder he couldn’t reach the pass on the TD he gave up to 6’4” Eric Ebron. Fellow safety Marcus Gilchrist, who’s also 5’10”, gave up a TD to 6’6”, 260-pound Jack Doyle.
If Guenther watched any past film on the Raiders, he would know Irvin is pretty good at covering tight ends. Eric Harris at 6’3”, 225 pounds is also a better bet to cover opposing TE’s.
Geunther has a nice Double-A-Gap scheme to get pass-rushers one on one but even that won’t work until the young pass-rushers get better. One thing that will never work is 5’10 safeties covering 6’5” tight ends. So opposing offenses have taken advantage of Guenther using his strong and free safeties interchangeably.
The best idea would be to put Harris at SS and Joseph at FS. Admitting his mistake and moving Irvin back to OLB and Whitehead out of the game would help the defense too.
Schemes are great but players make them work or not work so Guenther needs to adapt to his players more.