When examining the 2018 schedule, the Raiders must contend with the AFC North. For one member of the coaching staff, this opportunity presents him with a challenge. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther returns to the division that he holds great familiarity with. For thirteen seasons, Guenther worked as an assistant for the Bengals. As a result, he maintains a deep insight into the inner workings of that division.
Controlling Antonio Brown
While no one appears to have the formula to derail Brown, Guenther’s defense could slow him. Versus Guenther’s teams, Brown averaged 75.8 yards per game (15 total). More importantly, anything the Raiders do versus Brown will serve as an improvement over the 28-target, 17-catch, and 284-yard performance. This time, Guenther can use Rashaan Melvin to shadow Brown. At this point, Gareon Conley made not be ready to handle the razor-sharp routes. If the pass rush gets home and actually hurries Roethlisberger, the Raiders can grab an unexpected victory.
Whether fans know Baltimore RB Alex Collins or not, he gives the Ravens’ running game teeth. If you remember, he moved the chains versus Oakland last year. Collins presents the Raiders a unique challenge. As a result of his burst and power, Guenther needs his defense to use precise technique. The days of the Norton arm tackle need to vanish. Collins makes flimsy efforts pay. For Thai Whitehead, who excels versus the run, Collins’ ability to shed the first tackle makes his technical approach more important. Whitehead cannot grab and drag Collins.
Cleveland Air Show
Regardless of who throws the ball in Cleveland, the Browns built a formidable passing attack. The Raiders must prepare for a team boasting multiple threats. First, back from his suspension, Josh Gordon steps in a deep threat and big-play wideout. Gordon’s ability to sell routes and explode vertically will test Guenther’s defense. In addition, Jarvis Landry now commands slot attention. In that case, whoever operates that spot will need to be wary of those underneath precision routes that eat defenses alive. On the other hand, Joe Thomas retired after a winless 2017. The Raiders must generate heavy pressure and force the issue early. If not, the Browns will torch the secondary.
After a decade-plus in Cincinnati, Guenther will see his former team again. This time, he will line up across from them. While Guenther remains familiar with just about every current Bengal, a newer one may hold the key to how the Raiders fare in this game. Rookie C Billy Price does not play a glamour position. Yet, he will affect the game and test a long-considered weakness of the Raiders defense. During his career at Ohio State, Price mauled opponents with brutality and toughness. In Cincinnati, he will probably bring the same level of aggression. Vanderdoes, Hall, Hester, Hurst, and company must prepare themselves for a fight upfront.
Granted, the Raiders must score to win these games. However, Paul Guenther’s knowledge of this division could be the difference between an eight or ten win season. A split of these four games will be the minimum that Oakland must accomplish.