Imagine if you got a new job the week before a major presentation at your new company, and you were asked to be a major contributing factor in said presentation, except you had little familiarity with the topic at hand.
It wouldn’t be a comfortable situation, but that’s the situation D.J. Swearinger was thrown into when he signed with the Oakland Raiders on November 9.
On short notice, Swearinger was asked to learn a new playbook, communicate with players he’d never lined up with before, and play for his first time in seven weeks, following his release by the Arizona Cardinals Week 4.
Despite what could’ve caused several hiccups, Swearinger managed to finish as the Raiders’ leading tackler against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. The seven-year vet totaled seven tackles and looked comfortable operating in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.
"Yeah, I felt great,” he told reporters postgame. “Especially with what the coaches asked of me. It was sort of the same calls I learned in Arizona so that was what really helped me. With PG [defensive coordinator Paul Guenther] being a former defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, that really helped me with the terminology of things, I adapted quickly."
Even though aspects of Guenther’s system were moderately familiar to what he’d experienced in the past, as a coaching staff it’s not easy giving a player a crash course on everything they need to know before gameday.
“It takes a lot of effort,” Coach Gruden said following the Raiders’ win Sunday night. “I remember when we made the trade for Zay Jones, we were going on our bye week and we had three coaches in there everyday teaching Zay Jones how to be the ‘Z’. Same with Trevor Davis. And he’s these guys walk in, don’t play and they start and they play significant roles. We did the same with Swearinger. We did the same thing with Dion Jordan. We did the same thing with Will Compton. We’re going to do the same thing whenever we have to. That’s a sign of a high effort coaching staff and a group of guys that are willing to give anybody a chance if they deserve it.”
It's obviously on the coaches to give the players the material they need to understand the gist of everything, but there are countless hours of studying and preparation put in by the players individually, and every night before Swearinger went to bed he made sure to educate himself.
"I put in a lot of hours,” he said. “Came in and met with the coaches over the weekend when I got here. I made sure I studied every night, put in the work, and I got great results."
The Silver and Black needed Swearinger to step up on Sunday, and he played his part. With Karl Joseph out for the year and Lamarcus Joyner’s status still up in the air, the coaching staff will continue to lean on Swearinger and his veteran experience for weeks to come.
Yesterday’s matchup was just the first time Swearinger had experienced Raider Nation as a member of the team, and it was everything he thought it would be. Pregame he shook hands and took selfies with fans in the Black Hole, and embraced him as one of their own.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Swearinger shared. “One of the best stadiums that I've played in for sure. Just going about how the fans get up and loud on third downs, that is how you can really tell about the fans and they were very loud. We actually had to call a timeout one time because we couldn't hear the calls so it is great. I love it."
Swearinger and the Raiders won’t be back at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum until Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans, but hopefully by then he’s more well-versed in the system.