Week 11 of the NFL season is nearly upon us (still have to wait for Monday Night Football) and the Oakland Raiders' roster has changed drastically since the start of the 2019 campaign.
Since Week 1, the Raiders have placed several players on the Reserve/Injured list: safety Johnathan Abram, linebacker Marquel Lee, quarterback Nathan Peterman, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, and now safety Karl Joseph. The blow from Joseph's injury is a dagger, especially to a defensive backs unit that has grown thin in recent weeks.
During the Raiders Thursday night game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Joseph closed out the game in the final moments of regulation with a fourth-down interception on Philip Rivers. While the play gave the team its fifth win of the season, Joseph was injured on the play and is now on IR. In the final year of his rookie contract, Joseph had stepped up in a big way, and really took command of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system, but the team will have to move ahead without him for the remainder of 2019.
Over the last few weeks, there had been rumblings of a possible partnership between 28-year-old safety D.J. Swearinger and the Raiders, and Saturday those rumors came to fruition. With Joseph and rookie Johnathan Abram out, the team needed to add more depth on the backend of the defense, and Swearinger brings a vast amount of experience and talent to the decimated unit.
"I like Swearinger," Gruden said blatantly Monday. "He played with my brother in Washington and I was a broadcaster. At one point I spent a lot of time at South Carolina with my friend [Steve] Spurrier, so I know a little bit about Swearinger. I think he's a good player. He's just got to put it all together. That's what he needs to do and he's got to start that process today. We need the very best of Swearinger and we need guys like [Dallin] Leavitt and we need these other safeties to step up as well, just like Erik Harris has done."
A veteran of seven years, Swearinger has played some productive snaps during his time in the league. Prior to this season with the Arizona Cardinals, Swearinger had three consecutive seasons with at least three interceptions, amassing 11 total between 2016 – 2018. His departure from Arizona felt premature from his perspective, but he remains grateful for the opportunity.
"They [Arizona] really didn't give me an explanation," he told reporters. "It was said that they wanted to go young. It was a new coach, so I guess they wanted to go young. From my end, I know I didn't do as well as I did in the past the first couple games, but that's September football. You got to learn in September, you got to learn the coaching staff and their wants. That's where I think the struggles came in, so I just think they pulled the trigger too early and didn't really give me time to settle in with the defense. It is what it is, I don't regret nothing at all, man."
Now joining the Raiders a little beyond mid-season, Swearinger will understandably have some catching up to do before he's thrust into the fold, but he's taken notice of the Raiders from afar this season, and likes the team's resiliency.
"They got grit, man, and it starts with the head coach," he explained. "I love the head coach; I've always loved Coach Gruden. Way back in college from him with the Monday Nights. Just being on a team with a coach like that I know we're going to bring it every time we step on the field, he expects that. The guys in the locker room – there's some young guys – they're talented and they want to go to work."
Swearinger and the Cardinals parted ways after Week 4, and following his release he's used his time to recuperate physically and spend some time with his family. He told reporters he feels rejuvenated and ready to attack the second half of the season, which is great news because the Raiders need him to step up early.
I doubt he'll be ready to suit up this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it's possible he takes the field one week after signing with the Silver and Black. At only 28 years old, Swearinger has plenty of gas left in the tank.