Joyner is a true free safety who adds upside with experience playing the nickel position during a 5 year NFL career.
Immediately when Joyner was signed many were right to point out that the two starting safeties in Oakland (Karl Joseph and Joyner) were listed under 5’11. At 5’8 Joyner is actually the shortest safety in the NFL. His height was an issue for his former Head Coach Jeff Fisher who opted to play Joyner only as a slot defender. This gave Joyner valuable experience and honed his man coverage skills.
The experience paid off and although he was used sparingly in the slot he was able to make plays in 2018 like this one against Michael Thomas during the regular season.
In 2016 Joyner showed he could read the QB and break on passes in zone coverage. When he arrives at the ball carrier he brings bad intentions. In the clip above Joyner’s collision dislodged the football and temporarily knocked Doug Baldwin out of the game.
The nickel is a tough position to play in the NFL because it requires a defensive back to have the footwork to cover the quickest receivers but also the ability to defend the run in the box. Despite Joyner’s smaller stature he has no hesitancy adding his hat against the run game. In the clip above, Joyner starts on the defensive left side and shoots the gap as soon as he reads run. Even more impressive is finishing the play by himself for no gain.
Joyner does have the occasional bad play on tape as do all defensive backs if you look hard enough. In their playoff game against the Cowboys, Amari Cooper proved to be a tough task for Joyner man to man in the slot.
Joyner isn’t an elite Nickel but a safety who can play the position well. In this respect he is an upgrade over Marcus Gilchrist because of his ability to play sticky man coverage in addition to deep coverages.
In 2017 Joyner made the transition to full time safety under Sean McVay’s staff. Joyner continued to bring the thud as a roaming deep safety. Joyner knocks the Arizona WR out of the game with this perfectly timed hit. Sensing a theme here?
Joyner mostly played deep coverage for the Rams however in 2018. In the shoot-out against the Chiefs he goes 1 on 1 against Tyreek Hill. He shows great footwork and hips to stay on top of the deep threat before undercutting the throw to break up the pass. pic.twitter.com/II9RcdX19u— DWillSkills (@BDWilliams18) March 12, 2019
In the highest scoring game in NFL history, Joyner made a few great plays on the ball including this beautiful pass break-up against Tyreek Hill deep. Many NFL safeties would start to panic when Tyreek Hill streaks to the post against their deep half. Joyner stays collected and is able to transition cleanly when Hill breaks to the corner and times the deflection.
Joyner isn't without flaw however. He does a great job at staying on top of the slot fade by Michael Thomas. But Drew Brees throws it back shoulder turning it into a rebound attempt. At 5'8 Joyner won't come down with too many of these. pic.twitter.com/bhhIkB8HE9— DWillSkills (@BDWilliams18) March 12, 2019
Joyner is actually in a good position to make this play above against the Saints. Joyner’s size will be an issue at times, regardless of his positioning. Raiders fans are used to seeing Karl Joseph get out-muscled for jump balls and unfortunately the Joyner signing doesn’t change that.
Joyner provides playmaking ability and speed to this secondary. He can be used in a variety of ways which gives Paul Guenther flexibility in his deployment. Joyner’s strengths are tackling and taking great angles to the ball from wherever he is on the field. The Raiders need a true deep safety so he will fill that role, but look for Joyner to get a look as a slot defender depending on the match-up that week.