Paul Guenther places emphasis on finishing second half strong this Sunday


It really is a bit of a statistical oddity, one that even defensive coordinator Paul Guenther doesn't think he's seen in his 15-plus seasons in the NFL.

Through three games, the Oakland Raiders defense has been stellar in the first half, allowing just a combined 336 yards before the half.

In fact, the Raiders as a whole have outgained their opponents 684 to 336, but for whatever reason, that production hasn't continued into the second 30 minutes, as the Raiders have allowed 787 combined after the half in the early goings of 2018.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Silver and Black have led in two of the last three games, but when the final 15 minutes of action starts, the team is getting outscored 37-3.

It's a problem that Head Coach Jon Gruden and his staff are determined to fix, and the hope is they'll be able to do so this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Whether it's on offense or defense, the Raiders need to make adjustments in the second half. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther has helped the team in more ways than one, and the improvement from 2017 to 2018 is evident, but he knows the unit needs to kick things into gear in the fourth quarter.

"I've never been through anything like this really," Guenther said Thursday. "You hold a team to, I think the first game was like 90 yards or 80 yards, the Rams. Then the second game was 84 yards. Last week I don't know what it was, but it was under 100 at halftime. For some reason or another, we just have to continue to do the things the right way. The plays and the calls weren't much different. We defended them good in the first half. I don't know if it's us running out of gas or mental lapses because we're new and everybody is new in this thing. I think we'll work through that and that's something that we're going to emphasize this week."

The Browns are currently averaging 325.7 yards per game (22nd in the NFL), and are averaging 20 points a game (20th in the NFL). This isn't the same team from a season ago; after failing to register a win all last season, the Browns own a record of 1-1-1 through three weeks. Baker Mayfield has officially been named the starter, and it'll be up to the Raiders defense to keep him limited all afternoon, especially in the fourth quarter.

"For a young guy he stands in the pocket and remains a passer which you don't always see that," Guenther said of Mayfield. "He will move around some in the pocket, so we got to make it uncomfortable for him in the pocket. It seems like he's got good command of the offense so it will be a good challenge. They got a good team."

Even though the Raiders added a lot of veteran talent in the offseason, the rookies have been asked to step up and contribute in a big way. Through three weeks of action, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. has been a force in the middle of the defensive line. While he only has five tackles through three weeks, Hurst has been a quality run-stopper, and has continued to create log jams at the line of scrimmage. The former University of Michigan Wolverine has a lot of potential, and he feels like the defense as a whole is slowly tapping into its own potential.

"I think we're getting better every game," Hurst said. "I think – actually I know we're getting better every game. We're getting more push. We're getting more pressure and we're getting more comfortable out there. Each game we're getting more and more pressures, and getting to the quarterback and effecting his throws a little bit more and more every game, so just trying to keep the upward trend."

We'll see if Raiders can find a solution to their fourth quarter woes this Sunday; kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PDT.