One of the more notable additions the Raiders made last year was the signing of LaMarcus Joyner. He came on a pretty big contract and was expected to be an impact player as the nickel corner. Unfortautnely, that wasn’t the case and he had a very bad season. As a leader, he’s great. He was named team captain early on and helped the team’s young defensive backs come along.
The problem was that he never succeeded in the transition from safety to nickel corner. The Raiders couldn’t cut him this offseason because of contract guarantees but they’d probably let go if he has another bad season. Head coach Jon Gruden sent Joyner a very strong message.
“We got to tackle better and it starts with Joyner,” Gruden told reporters on Friday. “The nickel corner should be first or second on your team in tackles every year. That’s how it is in Guenther’s defense, so we need him to really get the ball on every single snap in our sub defense and be one of our top tacklers. That’s the number one criteria we’re looking for.”
If Gruden is expecting Joyner to be first or second on the team in tackles, he’s got a lot of work to do. He was seventh on the team in tackles last year and even defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had more than him. It’s now clear what Gruden wants to see from him and he’ll need to meet the challenge or it’s very possible he eventually loses his job to rookie Amik Robertson.
Joyner Explains Importance of Position
With the passing game becoming more and more lethal in the NFL, the need for a good nickel corner has become much more pressing for teams. Joyner had a chance to speak to the media on Friday and explained why his position is important.
“Nickel back position is like the general at the second level,” Joyner said. “Not the third level with the safeties, but with the linebackers and understanding where the D-end and D-tackles fit in. It’s almost like you’re a cover guy and a linebacker, so you definitely have to be technique and fundamentally sound to be able to rack up those tackles.”
Joyner is a seasoned veteran and has put together some good seasons, he just needs to figure some things out.
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Joyner Is Feeling More Comfortable
It’s no secret that Joyner struggled last year and many fans are already calling for his job. That said, he was playing a new position last year and it takes more time to adapt for some players. He now feels like he’s got a better chance of success in 2020.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, almost feel like my second year again in the league,” Joyner said. “I went to a complicated system with the Rams and Greg Williams, it takes a lot to learn with those kinds of complicated systems, [like Guenther’s]. But I feel much more comfortable and that’s going to help me with my confidence, and executing and making more plays.”
This year, the Raiders have an insurance policy with Robertson coming to town. He’s feisty and he’s hungry to prove himself after falling in the draft. This could be good for Joyner as he will need to push every week to ensure he doesn’t lose his job.