Lamarcus Joyner has not played a snap for the Oakland Raiders, but he already holds a special place in Jon Gruden’s mind.
When Gruden won his only Super Bowl defeating the Raiders in 2003, his defense boasted a small yet talented defensive back in Ronde Barber. Gruden sees a resemblance between Joyner and Barber.
“When I was in Tampa, I coached a guy named Rondé Barber,” Gruden said at the league meeting in Arizona this week. “He might have been perhaps my favorite player I’ve ever coached. He wasn’t the biggest guy, he wasn’t the fastest guy, but when he put the helmet on something happened to that guy. Joyner to me is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Ronde, as a slot corner. I think he’s the best. I think he’s got a chance to really be dynamic in there, his leadership . . . There’s something about this guy that’s special.”
The similarities are not difficult to find. Both Joyner and Barber are under-sized, 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10 respectively, have played safety in addition to corner and make a major impact on defense.
The comparison to Barber is also no joke. It is almost the ultimate praise for a slot corner. In 2001, Barber hauled in 10 interceptions for the Buccaneers and ended his career with 47 interceptions (47th all-time) along with 15 forced fumbles.
However, the comparison fails in one key category. Joyner, with four career interceptions in five seasons, is nowhere near the game-changer that Barber was in terms of having a nose for the football. In addition, Joyner has seen a lot of snaps at safety recently whereas Barber only made the move near the tail-end of his career.
Joyner is talented and versatile, but he is a long ways away from being at Barber’s level. Though Gruden truly believes that Joyner has the ability to wreak havoc on defense like his former elite defensive back in Tampa.