The Cincinnati Bengals did all they could to keep defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But he couldn’t resist coming in to be a part of Jon Gruden’s comeback. I’m sure that kid Khalil Mack — one of the NFL’s most dominant defensive players — had something to do with it too. Any coordinator would like to build their defense around Mack.
“Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense,” Guenther said in a conference call when newly hired. “We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. [But Mack is] a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach, for sure.”
Guenther added that Mack would be a key to blitzes as well.
“I love blitzing, I got every blitz in the book up on my board here. We got it all -- double A’s, overloads -- any blitz you can imagine, we have it ... really, what I’d like to try to do is get Khalil Mack one-on-one.” Guenther said. “That’s more of a blitz to me than anything, to get him on a tight end or a running back or a tackle that we feel we love the matchup on.”
The Raiders hardly blitzed last year and Guenther blitzed even less than that but the Bengals still got to the quarterback. He made it count when he did blitz out of his Double-A-Gap Package so opposing teams are wary of it.
In the package, he walks his safety and nickel corner up and has two of his linebackers lined up in the A-gaps. Any one or more of the four players that walked up can blitz at any time in this package. So quarterbacks change their protections to protect against the blitz in case someone does.
The most dangerous men to the quarterback are the ones lined up inside so the opposing team’s running back will look to help inside. The guard also stays inside because there are too many men inside to help the tackle. This will get Mack matched up on the tackle one-on-one and you already know what he does with that.
It also helps to have a good 3-technique because a good one will draw a double team, keeping the guard away from Mack. The Raiders now have that in 2018 5th-round pick Maurice Hurst, a top-10 talent that slid because of a heart condition that checks out now. Opposing team’s aren’t going to want to leave Hurst one-on-one with the center while the guard helps out with Mack.
In 2nd-round pick P.J. Hall, the Raiders got themselves a good interior pass-rushing partner to go with Hurst. They just paid Justin Ellis a ton of money to play the 1-technique so we’ll see how that competition/rotation plays out. Ellis doesn’t offer much in the way of pass rush so Hall could step into the 1-tech spot on passing downs. Hall may draw a few double-teams himself.
Defensive end Arden Key is also a 1st-round caliber talent but ended up going in the third round because he had some off-the-field issues. He is likely to be behind Bruce Irvin, whom Guenther just moved to defensive end from his outside linebacker spot. Between the two of them, Mack will have some help on the other edge as well.
Potentially upgraded coverage from 2017 1st-round pick Gareon Conley and 2018 free agent Rashaan Melvin at the cornerbacks could make opposing quarterbacks pat the ball a couple more times per drop-back, giving Mack and company more time to get there.
All this could go a long way to helping the Raiders climb out of the bottom of the NFL in sacks. It may be time to put Mack on 20-sack alert now.
Here’s a video to show you how it’s all coming together.