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The Raiders have a penalty problem — and it’s getting worse

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The importance of the Raiders getting penalties under control will take higher priority in the next six weeks.

The Raiders’ 88 penalties are second most in the NFL, and 40 have come during the last four games. And 30 penalties have come on first downs while 19 have occurred on third downs.

“We certainly have to cut them back as a defense, as a team, because it’s going to cost you games, obviously,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “Whether you’re getting penalties on third down in the red area, you can’t have those penalties because they can be costing you games.”

Added linebacker Tahir Whitehead: “We definitely have to minimize these penalties, especially as we go down the stretch. The games are becoming more and more crucial and we all know that often, more games are lost than won.”

In other words, it’s imperative the Raiders don’t sabotage potential wins by committing too many penalties. And that has been a point of emphasis.

The question is, how do the Raiders minimize a problem that seems to be getting worse as the season unfolds?

Part of that is involves homework. And for Whitehead, that means studying up on the various officiating crews to decipher what penalties they typically call most.

“Generally you know where referees rank as far as throwing penalties, or which penalties they typically throw,” Whitehead said.

But it also means scouring game film to detect opposing players’ habits that might stretch the boundary of the rules.

“So for me personally, I’ll watch film and I’ll watch how a guy plays,” Whitehead said. “So if it’s an offensive linemen, and you know, you’re allowed to cut. But if you cut and you roll up on a guys legs, I’ll give the ref a heads up like ‘hey, these guys are cutting and rolling afterwards which, you know, goes to player safety.’

“Or, if it’s a guy that typically (goes) hands to the face or things like that, I’ll remind the ref to watch that guy’s hands because he typically goes a little high. So I just put a bug in their ear.”

From a coaching perspective, the Raiders staff is trying to teach proper technique and avoid certain penalties.

“We put a huge emphasis now really on our coaching technique No. 1,” said offensive coordinator Greg Olsen. “Each coach, the running backs, offensive line, tight end coach, across the board technique in terms of some of the holds that we’ve gotten.

“But really a big focus for us is the pre-snap penalties. And those are ones that we can eliminate. The pre-snap penalty more than anything has been probably the most disappointing, so we focus on eliminating the false starts, illegal formations, illegal shifts and then it’s cleaning up technique for the other ones.”

Bottom line: The later it gets in the season and the more imperative it is the Raiders cut down down on penalties.

“We understand where we are right now,” Whitehead said. “And if you look at it, there’s a lot of hidden yardage in those penalties within each game. It’s set back big returns, touchdowns, interceptions. There’s been multiple big plays that we’ve had that penalties overturned. We’re aware of them and we’re on each other’s case to make sure that we clean them up.”

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Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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