Raiders

Paul Guenther will captain effort to get Khalil Mack caught up when he reports

Paul Guenther will captain effort to get Khalil Mack caught up when he reports

NAPA – Khalil Mack isn’t with the Raiders in training camp. The elite edge rusher is holding out for a long-term contract that could set the market for defensive players, and has stayed away from his team since the offseason program started back in April.

He hasn’t practiced under Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. He doesn’t know all Guenther has in store for Mack. He won’t be anchored to one edge, ordered to see ball carrier, kill ball carrier.

“When he gets here, he’s going to find out that he’ll have a lot of new matchups,” Guenther said on the Raiders Insider Podcast. “We have an ability to move him around. We have guys like Bruce Irvin and Arden Key, who can move around as rushers, too. They won’t always know where Khalil is at when we play on Sundays.

“Hopefully, when everything gets rectified here and we get rolling, he’ll see that.”

It remains uncertain when Mack will report to the Raiders. A deal is not close, and Mack seems set on staying away until a pact is reached. That may change if the impasse gets close to the regular season and the loss of game checks, owed as part of a $13.846 million fifth-year option he’s owed in 2018, becomes a real thing.

Guenther isn’t concerned about all that. He wants Mack in camp posthaste, but has a plan for whenever the Raiders’ best player does arrive. Guenther will teach a crash course in his scheme to get him as ready as possible to make an immediate impact.

While the nature of Mack’s position and him being in impeccable shape will help him return, he’ll operate within a new system with new terminology. Guenther will personally get him up to speed.

“When he shows up, I’ll be his position coach for about a week,” Guenther said. “I’ll catch him up. We have a plan for that. Hopefully he can get here sooner than later. If that doesn’t occur, then we’ve got some guys out here working their tails off and competing and we’ll roll with them.”

Guenther expects to roll with a speed rushing package during obvious passing downs that could include Mack, Irvin, Key and the hottest interior rusher between Maurice Hurst, PJ Hall or Mario Edwards.

“I look forward to seeing that one day,” Guenther said. “If that works, I won’t have draw up crazy blitzes to reach the quarterback. That’s ideal, because teams who win the NFL can rush four and get home. They have seven guys in coverage and they don’t give up explosive plays. Having guys like that we can roll through can make us more disruptive.”

Aaron Rodgers calls Ex-Raider Charles Woodson best defender he ever faced

Aaron Rodgers calls Ex-Raider Charles Woodson best defender he ever faced

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has faced a multitude of impressive defensive players in his 14-year NFL career. During a recent interview at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe with NBC Sports NFL Analyst Chris Simms, Rodgers was asked which defensive player he's feared the most during his career. 

"It’s Charles Woodson,” Rodgers told Simms during an episode of "Unbuttoned."

“I got to go against him in practice for years. Nobody had better instincts, could bait quarterbacks better than him, more talent, ball skills, coverage ability, smart little nuances of the position. He’s the best. By far.”

Rodgers was teammates with Woodson with the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2012, and they helped lead the Pack to a Super Bowl victory in 2010. He grew a particular appreciation for Woodson during his time practicing against the cornerback while they were both in Green Bay.

“Charles dominated in a way I never saw anybody dominate before. The 2009 season, one of the greatest seasons I’ve ever seen,” Rodgers said. “What he did on defense, impacting the game, I’ve never seen a player impact the game that way until Aaron Donald.”

In 2009, Woodson had nine interceptions and was named the Defensive Player of the Year along with being named First-Team All-Pro. The former MVP quarterback also doesn't feel that Woodson has exhausted all of his ability on the field.

[RELATED: 49ers, Raiders picked to be among most improved teams by NFL analyst]

"He could probably still play today, he's in that kinda shape, you know," Rodgers told Simms.

Woodson previously has denied that he has any intention of returning to the NFL, but Raider Nation no doubt would be excited to see that No. 24 jersey back on the field in the Silver and Black.

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.