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.
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.”