The Raiders have done a lot to change their defense in 2020, intending to bring a unit to Las Vegas that would finish higher than 24th in points allowed and 31st in DVOA. But one starter on defense who will be returning, Jon Gruden’s first major signing on that side of the ball since re-joining the Raiders, is defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.
Unfortunately for both the organization and the player, the first season in a four-year, $42 million deal signed in 2019, was underwhelming. Now entering year two under Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, Joyner says he feels “a lot more comfortable” and compared it to when he was entering his second season with the Rams in 2015.
The 29-year-old cornerback and safety noted that playing for Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams meant learning a “complicated system”; Joyner went from playing in 26-percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie to 63-percent in year two.
He’s expecting himself to be more comfortable in his second campaign under Guenther, who as a defensive coordinator with the Bengals helped nurture the careers of veteran defensive backs such as Adam Jones, Reggie Nelson (a first time Pro Bowler at age 32 in 2015, before leaving the Bengals for the Raiders in 2016), Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick and Shawn Williams, in addition to quite a few younger players.
With the Raiders, Guenther is hoping for an elite secondary to be built around safety Jonathan Abram and cornerbacks Damon Arnette, Trayvon Mullen, and Amik Robertson. But they also have veterans such as Joyner, Damarious Randall, and Prince Amukamara, with Joyner standing out as a versatile player who could potentially fill in the gaps after several other names settle into place.
After playing in over 90-percent of the snaps for the Rams in 2018 and signing his deal with the Raiders, Joyner played in 14 games and made 10 starts last season, finishing with 68-percent of the defensive snaps. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Joyner allowed four touchdowns and nearly 70-percent of the 72 passes thrown his way to be completed.
During his press conference on Friday, Joyner also noted that he gave a glowing endorsement of former Rams teammate Cory Littleton to the front office, so his signing could end up helping in other ways off of the field.
Whether it is as a safety or a nickel cornerback, Las Vegas is hoping to see a better and more valuable season from Joyner in 2020. Given that he’s had an additional year to study the playbook, Joyner seems confident that he’ll be able to give that to the team.