Paul Guenther is installing a new defense for the Oakland Raiders with the most important part of the unit missing.
Star pass rusher Khalil Mack remains away from the Raiders in a contract dispute this offseason while Guenther works on rebuilding a defense that has been one of the league’s worst for more than a decade.
”He’s going to have a lot of catching up to do Geron Christian Jersey ,” Guenther said Tuesday.
”We’re going to have to have a plan for that for sure. I’m really concerned about the guys that are here now working. These guys have been busting their tails every day. Coming in early. Meeting with the coaches. Being great in the meeting rooms. Communicating on the field.”
Mack, the 2016 AP Defensive Player of the Year, is entering the last year of his rookie contract that pays him $13.85 million this year and is seeking a long-term deal that will make him one of the most highly compensated non-quarterbacks in the NFL.
Mack has missed the entire voluntary portion of the offseason and has not indicated whether he plans to report for next week’s mandatory minicamp or risk fines of more than $80,000.
Guenther’s focus now is on the defenders who are at practice this offseason.
”I’m trying to get the guys that are here better,” he said. ”These guys have been busting their tails, trying to get better. Trying to make the team. There’s some guys out there that I really think have a lot of uncovered ability.
”We’re trying to get it out of them to understand, `Hey, you might not be a 60-snap-a-game guy. You might be a 15 snap-per-game guy, do the best job in your role and how you can help us win.”’
Guenther was one of Jon Gruden’s first hires after being brought back for a second stint as coach in Oakland back in January and immediately given a tough task.
The Raiders defense has consistently been one of the league’s worst the past 15 years under coordinators Chuck Bresnahan, Rob Ryan, John Marshall, Jason Tarver, Ken Norton Jr. and John Pagano.
Oakland ranks last in the NFL in takeaways and points allowed in that span, second worst in yards allowed per game and third worst in sacks as the unit has struggled consistently from the front seven to the secondary.
Guenther’s defenses in Cincinnati have been some of the best in the league during his time as coordinator there.
”Paul Guenther’s defense http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/dak-prescott-jersey , it’s very aggressive,” new middle linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
”So many different looks. The onus is really on the linebackers to learn a lot of stuff. That’s good for myself because I know a lot. It’s putting a lot of pressure on me to learn it quickly.
”Learn it well enough where I can put my own flavor in making plays on this defense. I’m having fun with it now. The last couple of days have been my best days, running around. … Once you can get it down really well, you’ll look a lot faster out there on the field. We all can run fast and jump high, but mentally, once you got it down, all your abilities, your talents can show out there on the field. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
Last year was particularly bad when the Raiders became the first team to fail to intercept a pass for the first 10 games of the season and had just 14 takeaways all season.
To change that, the Raiders have made significant changes in personnel this offseason, bringing in Johnson to anchor the middle of the defense along with new linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur; drafted Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall and Arden Key to boost the pass rush; and signed defensive backs Rashaan Melvin, Daryl Worley, Marcus Gilchrist and Leon Hall.
Oakland is also hoping to get a boost with healthy seasons from last year’s top two picks Kevin Hogan Jersey , cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu, who were limited to 127 defensive snaps as rookies because of injuries.
Players take note: Referees aren’t swallowing their whistles so far in the 2018 NHL playoffs.
Penalties are up more than 17 percent over the same time a year ago and are playing a substantial role in several series. Through 19 games in the first round, there have been nearly 10 penalties per game. Last year, there was an average of eight penalties called through 20 games.
”The penalties that have been called in the series so far is an indication of how the referees are calling the game,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Monday. ”They’re calling it as they see it. I think discipline is of the utmost importance.”
While the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions haven’t been perfect in that regard against Philadelphia, they haven’t been derailed by a lack of discipline. Around the rest of the NHL, penalties and the ensuing power-play goals are making a big difference: There have been 38 power-play goals through Sunday’s games compared with just 21 in 2017.
The NHL wants officials to call playoffs at the same standard as the regular season, which is happening with penalties actually going up from the first period through the third. Each of the 10 pairings of referees working the playoffs has at least one who has worked the Cup Final, so the hope is having that experience helps maintain consistency.
The Washington Capitals blew two-goal leads in back-to-back overtime losses on home ice to Columbus because of ill-advised penalties and go into Game 3 on the road (7:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, NBCSN) knowing it’s a problem that needs immediate fixing.
”We need to be a little smarter,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. ”We need to play with better discipline – especially when we have the lead twice. … It’s obviously going to hurt you in the playoffs. That’s the way it is. It’s just fact.”
Nine of the 14 regulation goals in the Washington-Columbus series have come on the power play. The Blue Jackets, who surged into the playoffs by not taking a lot of penalties to tax one of the worst special teams units in the league, lead the playoffs in penalty minutes per game.
Coach John Tortorella said the Blue Jackets ”have to cure that” because it’s too dangerous to keep taking so many penalties. His players know it even if they’re unsure of the standard.
”We need to stay out of the box, but you never know what’s a call and what’s not anymore Kyler Fackrell Jersey ,” forward Cam Atkinson said. ”But that’s the game right now.”
In the West, where Winnipeg leads Minnesota 2-1, the teams realize how tight things are being called.
The Wild took five penalties in the first 31 minutes Sunday night and stymied the Jets’ power play in a 6-2 comeback win. The teams combined for 19 penalties – including some fights and misconducts – in the second game of their series.
”We’ve just got to watch taking penalties,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”Both teams were really emotional at the beginning and you’ve got to worry about taking penalties and getting behind the eight ball.”
It’s chippy between the Golden Knights and Kings, too, with Vegas up 3-0 going into Game 4 (10:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, NBCSN) in Los Angeles. All three games so far have been decided by a goal, L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty was suspended for an illegal check to the head of William Carrier and Kings coach John Stevens is none too happy about a missed call on Vegas forward Erik Haula for hitting Anze Kopitar in the face with the butt end of his stick Sunday night .
”We get a guy suspended for making a hockey play, and he butt-ends one of the best players in the world in the face,” Stevens said. ”That’s an intent-to-injure play.”
Los Angeles is the most recent team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, doing so in 2014 against the San Jose Sharks on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. Stevens, who was an assistant four years ago, said his team has ”had some resilience all year,” and the tightness of the games against Vegas combined with the excellence of goaltender Jonathan Quick certainly makes an turnaround possible.
The Jets lost Tyler Myers to a lower-body injury that coach Paul Maurice thought was avoidable Chidobe Awuzie Jersey , and the big defenseman’s status is uncertain going into Game 4 (8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, CNBC). Young Tucker Poolman could draw into the lineup in place of Myers if necessary.
The Capitals won’t have forward Andre Burakovsky for at least Games 3 and 4 in Columbus because of an upper-body injury. Coach Barry Trotz said Burakovsky is going to ”miss some time” after being crunched into the boards by Boone Jenner in Game 2. Speedy winger Jakub Vrana, a surprise scratch for Washington on Sunday, goes back in for Burakovsky.
Trotz said he has decided who will start in goal for the Capitals in Game 3 but hadn’t yet told Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. After Grubauer allowed eight goals on 49 shots before being yanked at the second intermission of Game 2, the smart money is on Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner.
Linesman Steve Barton, who was injured when he inadvertently clipped skates with Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson and had to be helped off the ice by trainers, dislocated his kneecap and tore a quadriceps muscle in his left leg. Barton will require surgery but didn’t tear ligaments in his knee, which doctors said is good news because they expect him to make a full recovery.
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