NAPA -- The Raiders' defensive struggles last season were well-documented.
Paul Guenther's unit racked up only 13 sacks and 14 interceptions while finishing 26th in total defense. After a 4-12 season, head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock set out to rebuild the roster, adding veterans Lamarcus Joyner, Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall to the defense, along with rookies Johnathan Abram, Clelin Ferrell and Trayvon Mullen.
The Raiders' new-look defense got its first look at a real opponent this week when the Los Angeles Rams visited Napa for joint practices.
Sean McVay's club opened last season by racking up 33 points and 365 yards in a Week 1 win over the Raiders. Guenther's new unit, however, has impressed the offensive wunderkind.
"Lot of new faces, lot of speed, lot of physicality," McVay said after practice Thursday. "I think you're seeing guys get more and more comfortable with coach Gunether's system. There is definitely some nice intricacies to it that make it really challenging to an offense. I think when you look at Ferrell, you look at Abram, you feel those guys out there. Adding a Vontaze Burfict, when you're out here and you listen to his ability to communicate, it's pretty impressive.
"So they've definitely got some good depth up front, they've got some inside linebackers who can play and they've got some physical safeties and some corners who can run. So I think you can expect them to be a really tough matchup for offenses this year."
Despite the Raiders' improved defense, McVay's first-string offense still was able to pick up yards in bunches during practice, with tight end Gerald Everett making a number of catches in the middle of the field when matched up with the Raiders' linebackers. But Guenther's unit made some solid plays and the corners held their own against Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp.
Guenther's new unit still has a lot of work to do, but early returns have been positive for a unit that needed major improvements.