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Raiders picking up Paul Guenther’s system quickly, forcing turnovers

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

At times, it seems the NFL is synonymous with the word injury. Every single team will go through adversity requiring players to step up and play more than they are accustomed to and sometimes even switch positions.

As such, it is vital for players to be comfortable all around the defense so they can be at ease when the inevitable occurs and someone goes down with an injury.

Thus far, Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley has already gone down with an injury that could cost him a fair amount of camp time, requiring a different cornerback to enter the starting lineup.

But for these reasons, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is trying to implement a defense that helps players become versatile and that starts with challenging the players to fully understanding the decision making, not just to accept it.

“That’s No. 1 of being smart,” Guenther said. “Situationally understanding. I always tell them, ‘I’m going to give you a game plan sheet every week and I’m going to tell you why I’m calling these things.’ Just don’t say, ‘OK.’ I want you to ask me, ‘What are you looking for here?’ It’s important that they understand it because they’re playing.”

And to help ease the transition to a new defense, Guenther wants to forget about the past and start new.

“You know I didn’t really ask much because when you change coaches or whatever it is, it’s part of the NFL,” Guenther said. “I can’t go through everything they were taught last year, so I kind of didn’t worry about it. I said, ‘Erase everything you had from last year. We’re going to start this book with a new chapter and we’re going to write every chapter as we go.’ I can’t really answer the question because I didn’t really ask the players much. We just said we’re going to start new here and this is what we’re going to do.”

By focusing on building from scratch, the players have been able to play naturally and not overthink which has helped force more turnovers.

“The defense is like night and day to me, from past two years to this year,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “Norton is my guy, I love Norton. Guys are flying around. Guys are doing less thinking. First day we had five turnovers. All last year we had 14 combined. We had two yesterday and I don’t know how many we had today, I’ve got to watch the film, but guys are going at it. Guys are battling. Guys are trying to get the ball. That’s what we preach, that’s what we harp on- getting the ball and getting it back to our offense as much as we can. I think the guys on defense are doing a great job and picking up the system, flying around and making plays.”