ALAMEDA -- Pssst. Wanna know a secret about Brandon Myers?"Hes probably got the best hands on the team," said Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer.Yes, in this season of offensive transition, Myers has become Mr. Dependable as the tight end has caught all 15 passes thrown his way."I don't pay attention to that stuff," said Myers, whose career high for catches in a season is 16, set last year.Still, Myers has already set a new single-season standard with 206 yards and is enjoying being a more tangible part of the offense."Its nice," he said. "Im just trying to do whatever the coach asks. If it comes to the tight end, it comes to us. If not, were blocking or something else."Myers, though, had a clutch 15-yard catch on 3rd and 10 during their game-winning drive last week. He paid for it with a concussion suffered at the helmet of Steelers safety Ryan Mundy."Thats just a play where youve got Brandon matched up in a favorable matchup against a linebacker, and he does such a good job," Palmer said. "Hes a lot faster than he looks and he kind of catches guys off guard, and quicker than he looks too. And before you know it he gets by you, just like he did on that play."He was getting grabbed and held and he fought through it and made a phenomenal catch, and he got blown up at the end of it too. Just a great play by him."Still Myers is confident he will pass the concussion protocol to play Sunday at Denver and continue his chemistry with Palmer."Were developing it," Myers said. "Like I said, it takes time. He got here in the middle of the season last year, so its taken some time. Now with the tight ends that we have, hes finding us in the offense. Its not just me catching balls. Its other guys catching balls, too."But Myers is the only guy on the roster to catch every ball thrown his way."He makes diving catches, one-handed catches," Palmer said. "You dont ever see him drop anything, so his hands are very reliable. He really understands the game, he knows how to set up routes, he knows how to get open in zones. He knows how to set up man routes. Just really a solid, all-around player."And he can block too, which a lot of times you get a guy thats really good at one thing and struggles at the other. Brandons really balanced in the passing and running game."And in not dropping passes.
Jack Del Rio may not be out of work very long.
Fired moments after the Raiders lost their season finale to the Chargers on Dec. 31, Del Rio is "leading candidate" to become the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, according to ESPN.
Del Rio joining the Giants is contigent on Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur being hired as New York's new head coach. According to ESPN, the Giants are planning a second interview with Shurmur this week.
In three seasons with the Raiders, Del Rio compiled a 25-23 record. After a 12-4 record and a playoff appearence in 2016, the Raiders finished with a disappointing 6-10 record this past season.
Del Rio is still owed a considerable amount of money by the Raiders through the 2020 season, a number in the range of $15 million.
Del Rio broke the news of his own firing, informing the media after the loss to the Chargers.
"Spoke with Mark Davis after the game and Mark let me know that he's not going to be bringing me back. He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to get this program going in the right direction but that he felt the need to change. I told him I appreciated the opportunity he gave me and I mean that. Very grateful. My childhood team. But it's a results based business, I understand that.," Del Rio said on Dec. 31.
A week later, the Raiders hired Jon Gruden to be their new head coach.
Paul Guenther and Jay Gruden are great friends. The bond formed in Cincinnati, when both guys were Bengals assistants.
Jay Gruden moved on to Washington, and has been that club’s head coach since 2014. Last year, Jay Gruden tried to bring Guenther with him. The Bengals, however, wouldn’t let Guenther out of his contract.
It expired this month, allowing Jay’s brother Jon Gruden to purchase this hot commodity. The Bengals tried to keep him with a lucrative contract offer, but Guenther’s mind was made. He took the job as Gruden’s defensive coordinator, and the four-year contract that came with it. This is about more than money. Jon Gruden presented a unique opportunity worthy of Guenther moving on after 15 years in Cincinnati.
“I’ve known Jon for a long time,” Guenther said this week in a conference call. “Just the ability to come with him and start something fresh from the ground up really excited me. I’ve been in Cincinnati for a long time. My kids were basically raised there. I know a lot of the players. But to have this opportunity with Jon coming to the Raiders and the brand of the Raiders really attracted me. Overall, just an opportunity to come coach with him, see him do it, see how he runs this organization, this team, would be a great thing for me to learn from.”
The Guenther hire was important. He’ll be installing a new system and will have considerable clout running the defense with Gruden focused on the process of scoring points.
Guenther’s defense was built in Cincinnati, with current Minnesota head coach and former Bengals DC Mike Zimmer also contributing to the scheme. He runs a 4-3 defensive front with single-gap responsibilities. What you’ll see from Minnesota in the NFC championship will look a lot like the Silver and Black scheme next season.
“Structurally they’re very, very similar,” Guenther said. “I would say 80, 90 percent of the defense, the calls, the fronts, the coverages, the terminology is all about the same. I spent a long time with Mike. Really, when he came over from Dallas and Atlanta to Cincinnati, he had the system that was probably 60 percent intact and then we kind of built up to where we are today. Certainly, I have my own little things that I added to the defense as I went along. He’s added things. We’re always talking in the offseason, just because we’re close friends, about the things that he’s doing, things that I’m doing. I would say it’s very similar.”
The Bengals didn’t blltz much under Guenther, especially last season. He isn’t averse to bringing extra guys. He just didn’t need to dial up those plays with the Bengals pressuring the passer without extra help.
“It all depends on how many we can get home with four (pass rushers),” Guenther said. “I think the thing you really have to look at is the amount of pressure you’re getting on a quarterback. If you don’t have to blitz and you can get home with four guys.
“…I love blitzing, I got every blitz in the book up on my board here. We got it all – double A’s, overloads – any blitz you can imagine, we have it. That was what my role was with Mike Zimmer (when he was Bengals DC) coming up with the third-down blitzes. I’m certainly all for it, but I think from a team perspective, and you’ve got to really see how the game is going.”
Guenther inherits a defensive depth chart with some star power, young talent and holes aplenty. The Raiders have some issues at linebacker, safety, defensive tackle and cornerback. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are solid off the edge, but the unit needs a talent infusion. There’s roster flexibility, with high-priced veterans easily cut if Guenther and Gruden so choose.
“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” he said. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there’s a lot of good pieces here for a foundation for sure. Obviously, every year, whether you’re the number one defense in the league or the number 32 defense in the league, you’re always looking to add pieces and fill out your lineup card. That’s what we’re going to be working through this spring and through the draft and through free agency as well as developing the young players that we have here. This day and age in the NFL when you draft guys and you think they’re worthy, you have to get them out on the field. You can’t sit on these guys for a couple of years because before you know it, their rookie contracts are over and they’re out the door. I certainly think there’s some good, young prospects here that I’m eager to work with.”