Paul Guenther will be creative with 'new toys' along Raiders defense


Paul Guenther will be creative with 'new toys' along Raiders defense

NAPA – The Raiders blitzed Arizona a bit more that you might expect for a preseason. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wasn’t going to give away proprietary information in a game that doesn't count. He didn’t reach deep into his playbook for exotic looks that opponents can now game plan against.

He wasn’t trying to give rookie quarterback Kyler Murray a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

He was doing something else entirely. He was giving pop quizzes to the new kids in school.

“If you notice, some of the guys we were blitzing, [Lamarcus Joyner, Johnathan Abram, Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict] are all new toys for me on this team,” Guenther said. “Those are the guys I wanted to see blitz a little bit, and not just sit back in coverage all day. Some of the [blitzes] I sent were basic things, but I wanted to see those guys communicate and play more than just one or two coverages.”

Guenther needed to know how those players -- primarily cover men -- would react when attacking at the line of scrimmage.

Everyone save Burfict had a quarterback pressure. Marshall got a sack and just missed another. Joyner blitzed from the slot and brought Murray down in the end zone for a safety.

Players who aren’t typically asked to provide pressure love the opportunity, and were thrilled to prove they can be unorthodox options for rushing the quarterback.

“It’s fun,” Joyner said. “If you look at the personalities we have on the defensive side of the ball, we have a bunch of aggressive, fast guys. It’s fun to get after the quarterback. We love that skill. We love playing aggressive... We have the players to do so. So, now Paul Guenther gets to look like that ‘G’ he really is.”

Guenther still prefers to get home with a four-man rush. There will still be plenty of “A” gap pressure that his scheme is known for, and he's got a large playbook for the players to work with.

[RELATED: Raiders appreciate Jon Gruden's coaching style, expletives included]

Now that the team features far greater speed overall, a deep front seven and Burfict's organization in the middle, Guenther can get really creative. That’s especially true knowing blitzes can come from anywhere.

“It has been fun,” Guenther said. “We have a lot more speed on the field. We can cover. We have guys who can blitz, guys who can play the run. I told the players, that you know what it’s supposed to look like when things go right. We had some glimpses of that the other night. Hopefully, we can continue to get better and understand the details of everything we’re doing.”

How Antonio Brown's Raiders-to-Patriots move could cost receiver $29M

How Antonio Brown's Raiders-to-Patriots move could cost receiver $29M

Antonio Brown got what he wanted when the Raiders released him two weeks ago, but the move could cost him nearly $30 million. 

Brown joined the New England Patriots hours after Oakland cut him at his request once the $29.125 million in contract guarantees were voided by the Raiders. He signed an incentive-laden deal with New England for $1 million guaranteed and a $9 million signing bonus, and it's possible Brown sees very little of that. 

The Patriots cut Brown on Friday after Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that someone with a phone number believed to be Brown's reportedly sent intimidating text messages to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct. They might have to pay Brown his signing bonus through a representation warranty clause that says the four-time All-Pro breached his contract by not disclosing "an existing situation that would have prevented his continued availability," a league source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano. If Brown was aware he was facing a federal lawsuit from his former trainer Britney Taylor alleging sexual assault, New England wouldn't have to pay either installment of his signing bonus Monday and on Jan. 15. 

As ESPN's Field Yates pointed out Saturday morning, Brown's potential final 2019 salary -- assuming he does not sign elsewhere this season -- would look much different than when the Raiders traded for the receiver in March and signed him to a new deal.  

To be exact: Subtracting Brown's single game check from his $29.125 million Raiders guarantee leaves him $28,966,677 shy of the money he thought he would receive in his re-worked deal. 

[RELATED: AB's texts reportedly were final straw for Patriots owner]

Brown thanked the Patriots for his short stint in Foxboro after his release Friday, but it's very possible he'll sing a different tune if New England does not pay his bonus. ESPN reported Friday that a signing bonus is thought to be "money earned" by the NFL Players Association, and the union likely would file a grievance on Brown's behalf if the Patriots tried not to pay his bonus. 

Even though he's now looking to join his fourth team this calendar year, don't expect Brown's name to fall out of headlines any time soon. 

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Why Antonio Brown might hate Patriots as he did Raiders after release


Why Antonio Brown might hate Patriots as he did Raiders after release

Antonio Brown famously celebrated when the Raiders released him two weeks ago, shouting he was “free” of a team he believed had wronged him by voiding $29.125 million in contract guarantees over a reported run-in with general manager Mike Mayock.

Brown was released again Friday, when the Patriots decided enough was enough, but the wide receiver was much kinder to Bill Belichick and Co. in the aftermath. He tweeted a thank-you message to Belichick, and his appreciative Instagram post to Tom Brady even drew a three-hearts response from the quarterback.

All love likely will be lost, however, if the Patriots follow the Raiders’ lead and try to void the money it once guaranteed Brown. And, as ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler pointed out, that’s quite possible.

When Brown joined the Patriots, he received a $1 million fully guaranteed salary and a $9 million signing bonus. By ESPN’s calculation, Brown was paid $158,333 in salary and roster bonuses by the Patriots, who now can argue that the personal-conduct nature of his release allows them to void the remaining $850,000 or so in guaranteed money. It’s the same argument the Raiders made when they wiped Brown’s guarantees off their books, which angered the receiver.

Now, here’s where the Patriots likely went wrong and the Raiders did not (yes, you read that correctly).

ESPN reported that Oakland, unlike New England, did not include signing-bonus money in Brown’s contract. And while the Patriots haven’t yet paid the receiver the first installment of his bonus — that’s due Monday, for $5 million — a league source told ESPN “the team's way out of it is through a representation warranty clause that says it's a breach of contract if Brown didn't disclose an existing situation that would have prevented his continued availability” — like his former trainer’s sexual-assault lawsuit against him, or the other allegations that since have been revealed.

If the Patriots refuse to pay Brown his signing-bonus money next week and the remaining $4 million on Jan. 15, the NFL Players Association surely will back the receiver. A source told ESPN that the union sees signing bonuses as "money earned” — no matter when payments are scheduled — and NFL contract language makes it even more complicated to void a guaranteed signing bonus.

So, if the Patriots come for that $9 million, they can expect Brown and the union to file a grievance — and to have a strong case. The NFLPA also doesn’t want to allow teams to escape lucrative signing bonuses promised to players, so it would fight hard for Brown.

[RELATED: AB's departure shows true nature of 'The Patriot Way']

The Raiders, meanwhile, are on much stronger footing, with Brown’s documented personal-conduct issues and no signing bonus in his now-voided contract. Their focus is on Sunday’s road game against the Minnesota Vikings, not a messy money fight, like what might now await the Patriots.

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