In the modern version of the NFL, versatility is an attribute valued over almost all others.
Look at Antonio Brown for example.
Yes, the All-Pro wide receiver is an elite route runner, but what makes him truly special is his ability to move all around the offensive formation. Whether that results in him operating from the outside, or dropping inside to the slot, defensive coordinators seldom know where AB is set to line up, and that type of versatility is hard to come by.
And while the ability to move around offensively is something coveted Head Coach Jon Gruden and his staff, the same goes for players on the defensive side of the ball, and that unique skillset is something that perhaps no player on Paul Guenther’s unit personifies better than Lamarcus Joyner.
Signed in mid-March, the veteran defensive back joins the Silver and Black after five seasons with the Rams organization, where he played a multitude of roles defensively, something that he’ll also be asked to do in Oakland this year, whether that’s playing the proverbial center field role as a safety or dropping into the nickel and going up against the likes of Antonio Brown and other wide receivers.
“My teammates have been very supportive trying to catch me in,” said Joyner. “I like the culture that [Head] Coach [Jon] Gruden is creating around here, it’s family oriented. It’s been a brotherhood and nothing but love since I have been here. It makes me comfortable at that position.”
While Joyner is listed as a safety on the team’s official roster, as stated earlier, the former Florida State Seminole will unquestionably move around the Raiders defense, and of all the positions he’ll be asked to play, one stands out as the biggest challenge.
“I wholeheartedly believe that the slot is the hardest position on the field,” Joyner explained. “You especially have to play the run game, the pass game, so just having a guy with the ability and the mental aspect of the game to be able to handle those challenges.”
Take a look as the Raiders begin their second week of Organized Team Activities at the practice fields in Alameda, Calif.
That said, while playing in the slot represents a big challenge – regardless of team – Joyner is confident that he’ll be able to pick up the intricacies of what Guenther and Co., will ask him to do schematically in short order.
“Football is pretty much the same – X’s and O’s,” he said. “It becomes rhetorical once you keep going over it and over it, it’s just the terminology. So, once I get that down in the scheme, I’ll be able to do what I’ve been doing all of my life.”
In addition to the bevy of responsibilities that Joyner will have on the field, he’ll also have a big one off the field – serving as the mentor and sounding board for rookie safety Johnathan Abram.
One of the Raiders three first-round draft picks this year, Abram has all the intangibles to be a quality safety for years to come, but no matter how talented a player is, having a veteran presence in his ear from Day 1 pays major dividends.
“He’s an alpha,” Joyner said of the hard-hitting safety. “He just has to slow it down, he’s ready to go. He’s been an alpha all of his life and I told him that you just have to think, keep your feet on the ground and let things come to him.”
He continued, “I remember being that way, which is why I know – with experience – just relax and your time will come. People know your great abilities and your potential.”
Safety, nickel corner, mentor, and veteran presence, Lamarcus Joyner is poised to be a busy man in 2019.