In recent seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals defense often gave up plenty of yards. But when it came to scoring points, opponents were handcuffed.
The leader of those groups, Paul Guenther, is now the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, so it’s possible the Oakland defense in 2018 could look something like Cincinnati’s.
In 2015, Guenther’s defense ranked second in the NFL in points allowed, giving up an average of just 17.4 points per game, behind only the 17.3 of Seattle, according to Patrick Judis, who blogs about the Bengals for SB Nation. In 2016, the Bengals were the eighth-stingiest scoring defense in the league, giving up 19.7 points per game. This past season, the Bengals took a step back, ranking 16th in the NFL in scoring D at 21.8 points per game.
“It always felt like Guenther never got proper credit for the work he did in Cincinnati,” wrote Judis. “Considering what he had to work with this season (2017), he did a fantastic job.”
John Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that in 2014, Guenther’s first year as defensive coordinator, the Bengals defense was 22nd overall (yards) but No. 12 in scoring. In 2015, it was No. 11 in yards and second in scoring. In 2016 it was No. 12 in yards and No. 8 in scoring. In 2017, 18th in yards allowed and 16th in scoring.
Wrote Owczarski: “His emphasis is on limiting points, not yards, and the Raiders have not had a top-15 scoring defense since 2002, when they went to the Super Bowl. The best the Raiders have been in that category since is No. 18 overall in 2006.”
Guenther is a disciple of Mike Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator of the Bengals before becoming head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, a team that reached this year’s NFC Championship Game with a strong defense. Guenther has run a 4-3 defense, but says he’s not opposed to running a 3-4 if the personnel fits that system better.
Guenther says he’s coming to Oakland for the chance to work with new head coach Jon Gruden. Guenther says he sees potential in the Raiders roster and is eager to be part of the “brand of the Raiders.”
“I’ve known Jon for a long time,” Guenther said. “Just the ability to come with him and start something fresh from the ground up really excited me.”
With the Bengals last season, Guenther didn’t blitz much, but that doesn’t mean he won’t with his Raiders unit.
“It all depends on how many we can get home with four (pass rushers),” Guenther told reporters. “I think the thing you really have to look at is the amount of pressure you’re getting on a quarterback. If you don’t have to blitz and you can get home with four guys. … I’m certainly all for it (blitzing), but I think from a team perspective … you’ve got to really see how the game is going.”