OAKLAND – Jon Gruden stood in front of his Raiders during a Wednesday team meeting. He introduced safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive lineman Dion Jordan to the full squad and made a simple, immediately granted request.
Knock on wood if you’re with them.
Nope. That wasn’t just a “Hard Knocks” gag. It’s a way of bringing everyone together and, in this instance, guys signed less than a week ago who would be counted on to make an immediate impact Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I definitely appreciated that,” Swearinger said. “I’ve never seen that anywhere else. The confidence he gives you as a player is great. You want to go to [play your heart out] for a guy like that.”
Swearinger and Jordan played significant roles and made significant contributions in a 17-10 victory over the Bengals.
Swearinger played in the base package and on most early downs and led the entire team with seven tackles. Jordan was an interior rusher on third downs and obvious passing downs and had a sack that forced a Bengals punt.
That was a big moment for the team and for Jordan personally. It was his first sack since last season, considering he sat out the first 10 games of 2019 while serving an NFL suspension. Jordan has had troubles with the league and was excited to return to the NFL stage. He’s on the right path now, sober more than three years and ready to get his NFL career restarted.
“With a guy like Dion Jordan, there are no judgements. We just want him to come in and do what he does,” said tight end Darren Waller, over two years sober after his own battles with addiction. “…We’ve had a relationship before he came here. It was good to see him and how he’s carrying himself and how he’s working. To see him get that sack today, I was really excited for him.”
The Raiders needed reinforcements after losing safety Karl Joseph and situational pass rusher Arden Key for the season in the past fortnight. Enter Swearinger and Jordan, needing to fit in quickly and contribute right away.
That doesn’t just happen. It takes time and lots of it in meeting rooms with position coaches trying to get guys ready and adapted to the scheme’s concepts and terminology.
This is nothing new for the Raiders, not after so much turnover at several position groups.
“The new guys get great, positive energy from the coaching staff,” Waller said. “They’ll be patient, but there’s also a sense of urgency with those guys. You see how it pays off. It’s amazing to see guys come in and contribute like they have on this team.”
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Swearinger has played for five teams – he was with Arizona twice – over seven seasons and has experienced a rush to adapt in-season once before. He was also comfortable with Paul Guenther’s system considering how similar it was to what he ran in Arizona earlier this year, but it still took tons of work to get ready for Sunday.
“I put in a lot of hours,” Swearinger said. “I came in and met with coaches over the weekend when I got here. I made sure I studied every night and definitely put in the work. It ended up with a great result.”