How Raiders are getting creative to keep Lamarcus Joyner on the field

How Raiders are getting creative to keep Lamarcus Joyner on the field

ALAMEDA – Lamarcus Joyner spent most of Sunday’s loss to Minnesota on the sideline. The Vikings essentially schemed him out of the game, staying with more tight ends and backs than receivers, eliminating a need for the slot cornerback.

The veteran team captain tried to handle the situation well, but playing just 23 snaps wasn’t easy watching his team struggle in a 34-14 loss.

“I tried to do a good job coaching the guys on the sideline and doing my job on the field,” Joyner said. “I think I handled it well, but I think coaches are going to handle it well in the near future with making sure things like that don’t happen.”

The days of Joyner getting schemed out of a game might be over, or minimized at least. That might mean he plays multiple positions, something he’s comfortable with after playing all over the secondary in his professional career.

“That’s what I signed up for,” Joyner said. “I came here to make the defense better. We’re in Week 4 in the season, the first quarter, and things are going to start getting picked up with the creativity and the way they use me. And you see it now, with this week in practice. I’m very excited for the challenge.”

Joyner fits most everywhere. He’s currently the team’s best slot cornerback and its best free safety. He prefers to focus on the slot, a unique position that requires coverage against a two-way go and physicality against the run.

Joyner (5-8, 191) might be up to covering tight ends soon, including Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron.

“We have a package where, I’m familiar with covering tight ends, so that’s a big challenge for me covering those big bodies,” Joyner said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, so I have to swell up in the run game. It’s a great challenge for me versus those tight ends this Sunday.”

Joyner can do that closer to the line of scrimmage, shadowing in-line tight ends expected to go into the pattern while defending possible runs close to the line of scrimmage.

The versatile defensive back also has played some damn good free safety during two years working under Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips from 2017-18.

Joyner doesn’t share the same passion for playing deep, and there was no pressing need to do so with Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram paired up at safety.

There might be one now.

The safety position has fallen on hard times with Abram on injured reserve and Curtis Riley heavily involved.

Abram got hurt in Week 1 and is done for the season, leaving Riley to man the back often as a lone deep safety. That hasn’t gone very well. He has allowed four catches for 105 yards and two big touchdowns in as many weeks, and hasn’t been a sure tackler on ball carriers running downfield. There have also been some miscommunications deep in recent weeks, and while it’s unfair to put all that on one person or position without knowing every detail of an assignment or coverage plan, those prove costly.

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Moving Joyner around could keep the Raiders unpredictable, shore up multiple problem spots and preventing teams from scheming him out of the game.

“I didn’t want to put him in a spot where he hasn’t practiced [versus Minnesota],” Guenther said. “I don’t want to do that to a player unless it’s an emergency, so we stuck with our plan. This week, we’ll have some different things for him.”

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Josh Jacobs is a feature back in every sense. The Raiders star rusher can do most everything well and is capable of playing all three downs. He can carry a significant workload, as he did during an exemplary 2019 campaign where he finished second in AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, and frankly should have won.

He had 242 carries for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, proving to be a tough and elusive runner who gains significant yards after contact.

Jalen Richard’s an excellent complement as a third-down back who can pass protect well and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

While those two can cover every offensive scenario, the Raiders should still work to add another running back.

That was clear at the end of last year when Jacobs was shut down with a shoulder injury he played through for weeks. DeAndre Washington filled in as the primary ball carrier and fared well but was allowed to hit the open market, where he remains today.

The Raiders could and should look to upgrade that position and not just by finding a backup. They need someone with a different style, maybe a big and bruising back to accent what the Raiders do offensively.

They tried to do that last season, when they worked out every veteran running back under the sun but didn’t sign anyone until Rod Smith came aboard late.

The sixth-year journeyman re-signed with the Raiders on a low-cost contract.

The NFL draft will have quality options available later in the draft, where the Raiders have three third-round picks and one each in the fourth and fifth.

It might take a third-round pick to land Boston College’s A.J. Dillion, a 247-pound bruiser who can run downhill and pick up short yardage by moving the pile. Draft analysts say he’s good at reading blocks and following his assignment, something important in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Vanderbilt’s Ke'Shawn Vaughn is an option who might be available later. He isn’t quite as big but has the toughness required to get hard yards and could absorb some blows to keep Jacobs healthy and fresh.

This isn’t a full-on draft breakdown, so we won’t go down the list of every scheme fit available for selection. There aren’t many free agent dollars left, so it’s hard to see another runner coming in.

The Raiders can survive with the depth chart they’ve got, especially with fullback Alec Ingold able to carry the ball effectively when called upon. But the NFL is trending toward two back benefits, even when there’s an obvious alpha like Jacobs.

Gruden has historically preferred feeding multiple backs, as he did in his previous Raiders stint with Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kauffman, and later with Wheatley and Charlie Garner.

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Gruden has also ridden one back pretty hard, as he did with Cadillac Williams while with Tampa Bay.

The Raiders are more than capable of rolling with the crew they have but could use to make the backfield a little better before the 2020 season begins by filling a relatively low-ranking need.

NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft


NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft

The Raiders are meeting with former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on an official top-30 visit. Well, the term “visit” might be a stretch considering nobody is allowed inside NFL facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pre-draft meetings still are happening, but those face-to-face interactions now are done over FaceTime or Zoom or Skype or whatever video conferencing platform you prefer.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Herbert will be meeting with the Raiders in this way, as the Silver and Black try to refine their options in the NFL draft.

Each team gets 30 meetings during the pre-draft process, though they’re often used on players from lower rounds or with character questions they need to examine further.

This meeting is sure to raise some eyebrows considering Herbert’s position and eventual draft status, but this should be viewed as an exploratory exercise of the Raiders doing due diligence.

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Herbert should be taken in the NFL draft’s top 10, well before the Raiders draft at Nos. 12 and 19. The Raiders have the capital to trade up in the draft if they choose, but it would be costly to move up high enough to get beyond the quarterback starved Miami Dolphins at No. 5 and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6.

They also have a quality quarterback room with Derek Carr as the starter and Marcus Mariota as the backup. There are far more pressing needs at receiver, cornerback and safety and maybe defensive line that could use talent available in the first round.

It’s possible the Raiders draft a quarterback later in the draft, but it seems unlikely in the first round.

Let’s also recall that the Raiders met with top quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins before last year’s draft and didn’t take either guy.

While the Raiders don’t have an immediate need at quarterback, general manager Mike Mayock always says the team will consider upgrades at every position. Head coach Jon Gruden loves meeting with quarterbacks and learning how they think.

Herbert is ranked high among the NFL draft’s best options at quarterback, typically third behind Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. He has ideal size for a quarterback at 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds, with great arm strength and field vision. He can throw on the move and is confident throwing the ball downfield and making smart decisions going with shorter and intermediate options.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s latest mock draft has Herbert going No. 5 to the Dolphins.

NFL Network also reported that Herbert has a video conference scheduled with the Bolts.