When you look at the 2017 Oakland Raiders roster compared to the 2018 roster, there's a lot that's changed. First, the team added Head Coach Jon Gruden in January, and it didn't take long for him to assemble an all-star cast of coordinators and assistant coaches, one of them being Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther.
Guenther joins the Silver and Black after spending four years in Cincinnati with the Bengals, and he'll bring that rough and physical defensive mindset to the Raiders. Sunday, Guenther took the podium and was happy to share that the defense looks like it's improving in terms of understanding his system, and is playing without overthinking its assignments, which was an issue at times last year.
The Silver and Black struggled to record turnovers in 2017, but the group is determined to make sure they create more chances for the offense this season. A lot of those forced opportunities will fall under the responsibilities of the secondary, and the unit is up to the task. Now with cornerbacks Gareon Conley, Rashaan Melvin, Daryl Worley, and others in the mix, figuring out the starting players will be a key storyline as we press forward.
"I will the tell you the corner job is wide open, it's wide open, so it's going to be excited to see who comes to the top of that battle," Guenther said Sunday. "He's [Dexter McDonald] in it, all those guys are battling each and every day, and it'll be exciting to see when the preseason games come what happens."
The secondary is up for grabs, and whoever decides to step up and go the extra mile could very well earn a starting role by Week 1. Dexter McDonald and Gareon Conley were the only current members on the team to start a game for the Raiders last season — there's been a lot of turnover — but I expect guys like Melvin to be a key contributor this year.
When Gruden and McKenzie assembled the roster, this was exactly what they wanted to create, competition, and they'll get plenty of it as training camp progresses, specifically at the cornerback position.
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther:
"[Defensive end Arden Key] is a talented rusher as we know, that's why we drafted him. He's doing a good job of playing the runs how we want him to play the runs, we know he can rush, he's special that way. So, obviously we came out here in pads and he showed the same thing he did in shorts, so it's exciting to have him out there."
"[Safety Marcus Gilchrist] has been tremendous. I'll tell ya, I told Marcus I said, 'When you're done playing we'll hire you as a coach.' He's smart and he understands the big picture. He can play nickel, safety, corner, so when you have a guy like that you can utilize him against tight ends, receivers, or backs coming out of the backfield. He's been a great asset for us."