Raiders

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

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USATSI

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.

He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”

Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.

Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.

Here’s what Guenther said about…

-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”

-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”

-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”

-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”

A closer look at why 2019 Raiders will play five straight away from home

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AP

A closer look at why 2019 Raiders will play five straight away from home

A closer look at why 2019 Raiders will play five straight away from home The Raiders got screwed. That’s the easiest conclusion to make following a brutal start to the 2019 slate following Wednesday evening’s NFL schedule release.

The sentiment’s rooted in some reality, considering the Raiders play their first two games at Oakland Coliseum and don’t return until Nov. 3.

They play five games away from home, with legit road games sandwiching a “home” game given away to play in the United Kingdom and an ensuing bye.

That’s what the Raiders are up against early next season. Here are some reasons why it played out this way, after talking to those with knowledge of a situation that has some Raiders and their fans a bit perturbed.

“On schedule release day, everybody’s reaction is emotional,” said Mike North, NFL vice president of broadcast planning, who is on the scheduling committee. “After you digest it and understand a little bit about the math and factors that may have contributed to it, you don’t feel that much better but at least you understand it.

“All 32 teams get equal consideration. There have been some times where (the Raiders) got a favorable schedule and things didn’t work out well for them, and others where they were upset about their schedule and had great success.”

Let’s start with this: The Raiders’ delay in securing an approved stadium lease for 2019 didn’t factor into the schedule or its release date, because the league started scheduling under the assumption the Silver and Black would be playing in Oakland.

The Raiders deciding to play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara or University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., venues considered that already house NFL teams, would’ve created headaches.

The team staying put did not complicate things further, though sharing Oakland Coliseum with the Athletics creates a tighter framework that schedulers have with other teams.

The Athletics were on the road from Sept. 9-15, giving schedule makers a window to have the Raiders play a Monday night opener – West Coast teams are most always features in the second portion of a double header – and a Sunday afternoon game in Week 2.

The Raiders had to go on the road in Week 3 with the A’s playing at home, and were consequently shipped to Minnesota against the Vikings. The A’s are away in the NFL’s Week 4, but the Raiders requested a game farther east before heading to London to battle Chicago in Week 5. As a side note, international dates are general decided in advance of the regular schedule.

They ended up in Indianapolis in Week 4, one of just two away 2019 Raiders opponents from the Eastern Time Zone.

The bye always comes after a game in the U.K., so that off week was locked into Week 6.

There were no direct conflicts against coming home for Week 7 or Week 8 – the Raiders play at Green Bay and Houston, respectively – but the A’s made the playoffs last year and are good again, create a slim chance of a postseason conflict again this year.

The Raiders experienced one in 2013, where kickoff against the Chargers had to be postponed into the night due to an A’s playoff game. Odds of that happening again are slim, but schedulers had to be cognizant of that when fitting the Raiders slate together.

Coaches, players and fans can find further gripes with the slate, including how much tough competition is featured in a brutal start. Tampa Bay also plays five straight away from home. The Chargers play four straight away from Carson.

It’s no coincidence that all three have international home games. It is a complicating factor when trying to create a schedule, and it’s something the league will look to avoid in the future.

NFL rumors: Raiders are 'super impressed' with QB Dwayne Haskins

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USATSI

NFL rumors: Raiders are 'super impressed' with QB Dwayne Haskins

The Raiders will have some decisions to make next week during the NFL draft.

With four picks in the top 35, the Silver and Black have the ability to restock their franchise with top-tier talent should they make the right decisions. Most experts expect the Raiders to draft a defensive cornerstone like Quinnen Williams with the No. 4 overall pick, but after that things could get interesting.

If the Raiders stand pat, they could add a cornerback at No. 24, perhaps running back Josh Jacobs at No. 27 and a wide receiver or a tight end at No. 35. But with sufficient ammunition to move around in the draft, don't count out the idea of Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden electing to try and select a quarterback early on. 

And we aren't talking about Kyler Murray, although he reportedly also could be an option.

Before Murray spurned baseball for football, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins was seen as the top quarterback in the class, and the Raiders reportedly have been "super impressed" with the Heisman finalist, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.

In his latest insider notes column, La Canfora reported he has heard the Raiders like Haskins a lot and he could see them passing on him at No. 4, but packaging the Nos. 24 and 27 picks to move back into the top 15 to take the former Buckeye.

Derek Carr currently is expected to be the Raiders' quarterback when the season begins, but Mayock has left the door open for the Silver and Black to make a change if he sees fit. 

[RELATED: Brutal road stretch could define Raiders' 2019 season]

Whether or not the Raiders elect to move up in the draft likely will be tied to how the draft shakes out after they pick at No. 4.

If a few players they like appear to be slipping into the 20s, don't be surprised if the Raiders hang on to their picks and try to restock a defense that needs help at all three levels.

Quarterback can always wait, right?