Scott Bair

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

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USATSI

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.

He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”

Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.

Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.

Here’s what Guenther said about…

-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. 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. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”

-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”

-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”

-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

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USATSI

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

Quarterback Derek Carr’s stage is set for a giant step forward.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks it happened the moment Jon Gruden became Raiders head coach, though not solely due to the mentor and his proven offensive system. It’s also the 10-year contract formally bringing him back. There’s no telling whether Gruden mans his post a full decade, but an extended stretch is guaranteed.

That in itself, Olson, says, is invaluable to a passer entering his fifth season with a fourth head coach and third offensive scheme.

“Probably more so than anything,” Olson said, “this guy has to get some continuity.”

Gruden will provide that, with Olson a link to Carr’s past. Olson was Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and guided Carr’s rookie campaign. Quarterback and coordinator worked well together a 3-13 season where the Fresno State alum started every game.

They’ll reunite under Gruden and stick together this time. Olson, after all, signed a four-year deal that’s double the industry standard.

“Derek is going to be in a system now,” Olson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. That’s the first time Derek will have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis. I just see that growth curve skyrocketing because of that.”

Carr’s trajectory went straight up from his rookie season with Olson through the next two years – he was a legit MVP candidate in 2016 -- though it markedly dipped during a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

Gruden and Olson are generally charged with fixing an offense with talent but little production last year, though their primary objective remains more specific.

Get Carr back on track.

“Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “The way we script practices, the way we are doing drills, everything that we do is all about the development of the quarterback. That will really speed the development of Derek. More so than anything is that there’s somebody here in place that’s going to make everything that we do and that everyone in the building understand that we grow as Derek Carr grows.”

Olson knows first-hand about Carr’s work ethic and acumen. He has seen athleticism, passing accuracy and a quick release turn football smarts into production. He told Gruden all that following the 2014 season, and believes Carr’s presence was an attraction to take the Raiders job.

“We drafted this guy to be that franchise quarterback," Olson said. "We feel like he has the potential to be that guy that can be here and play for 10 more years. It’s up to us to try and get that out of him. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that that happens."

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

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AP

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per overthecap.com, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.

PROS

-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.

CONS

-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?