Raiders key matchup No. 2: Huff vs. Manning


Raiders key matchup No. 2: Huff vs. Manning

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Broncos matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m. (CBS) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Part No. 1: Dennis Allen vs. John Fox

Raiders CBS Michael Huff vs. Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Tale of the tape
Huff: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, seventh season, Texas
Manning: 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, 15th season, TennesseeSo how would Michael Huff assess his play last week as a starting cornerback?"Got thrown in the fire," he said. "Kind of learned a lot last week. Had my growing pains on a few plays, obviously should have played better, got to hold up better on the outside. But luckily we got the 'W' and that week's over so I can learn from that film and get better this week."Sounds fair enough, right? Against Pittsburgh, Huff's "burn rate" was 55.6 percent in giving up five receptions on nine targets for 89 yards and a touchdown.Now Huff, who last played corner on a regular basis as a sophomore in college, finds a new challenge in Peyton Manning. Talk about your learning-on-the-job training."It's like a cat and mouse (game) because you know every snap he's reading," Huff said. "He reads everybody. Linemen, he reads whether your right foot's up, your left foot's up, things like that. So every snap you've got to be on point and ready for him."Manning, who has made a cottage industry of the no-huddle offense and changing calls at the line of scrimmage, is off to a pedestrian start, at least by his standards, with five touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 85.6."I'm not falling into that trap," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "Hes Peyton Manning. Hes a Hall of Fame quarterback. Theres no way that were going to, in any way, say that hes not the same quarterback that hes been. Ive watched the tape. Hes still an outstanding quarterback. Hes operating that offense and I dont really see much of a drop off of where hes been before. I think hes still an outstanding quarterback."RELATED: Notes from Dennis Allen's Friday briefing
Which might bode poorly for not only Huff, but also fellow cornerbacks Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson. As a trio, the three have a combined burn rate of 81.8 percent, allowing 27 receptions on 36 targets for 358 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 115.3.Not that Manning is licking his chops. At least, not publicly."Were still, you know, kind of forming our identity a little bit here," Manning said. "I really havent gotten into any comparisons to playing in Indianapolis here. Its a new team, weve got new players, a new system and were trying to get things going in the right direction here. So I still think it comes down to execution. Whether you huddle or you dont huddle, you still have to be able to execute. Thats really the key to moving the ball, I think."The key for Huff, meanwhile, will be beyond just covering his man. It will be mental, as in building his confidence."Definitely, because it's been so long since I was out there (at corner)," he said. "I looked back (at the tape) and I lined up sometimes 10, 12 yards off, when I really wasn't probably paying attention to it. But this week I'll be more focused on my depth on certain things."And that switch from safety to corner, just how different are the positions?"You can't really simulate what it's going to be like until you're out there," he said. "So I think just being out there that week, just learning splits and my depth on certain coverages and things like that definitely helped. I got that week out the way so this week should be better."

Report: Fired by Raiders, Jack Del Rio a leading candidate for NFC DC job

Report: Fired by Raiders, Jack Del Rio a leading candidate for NFC DC job

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.

New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden


New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden

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.”