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Raiders have ‘rebuilt the engine’ on defense, Paul Guenther says

Las Vegas defensive coordinator says defense is finally up to par heading into 2020 season

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders
Paul Guenther
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders’ third-year defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had some bold comments about the drastic improvement made on his side of the ball — and in turn, put immense pressure on himself.

Guenther, who came to the organization when Jon Gruden returned in 2018, made it clear, in a media session Thursday morning that he finally has the players to compete and said the Raiders’ “rebuilt the engine” on defense.

The Raiders added defensive tackle Maliek Collins, linebacker Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, and drafted cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round among other moves on defense. Clearly, Guenther thinks it is going to make a huge difference in 2020.

In 2019, the Raiders were ranked 23rd in both passing and defense and allowed 26.1 points a game. With an improved roster, a lot is expected from Guenther, who was considered a good defensive coordinator in Cincinnati prior to coming to the Raiders.

In some ways, Guenther’s assertive words on Thursday set himself up. If the defense doesn’t make a big turnaround and doesn’t make the Raiders make a playoff push, Guenther will be on the hot seat.

If a coach says he has a good unit and it doesn’t produce, someone is going to have to take the heat and it will likely be the coach. There’s no more excuses.

Guenther said Collins was the team’s best free-agent signing (it has been widely considered Littleton was the top prize) and he compared him to Geno Atkins, who he coached in Cincinnati. Atkins is considered one of best players at his position in the past decade.

I love the confidence and expectations Guenther has, but if it doesn’t go as planned, he’s going to have some explaining to do.