Jon Gruden has never worked with new Raiders defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. Safe to say to he’s looking forward to it.
“I have so much respect for him,” Gruden said. “I’m so excited to coach him I can’t even tell you.”
Gruden loves guys who work hard, guys who play hard and guys who hit hard. Joyner checks every box. Several on this Raiders roster do. Few, however, get lofty comparisons like one Gruden made earlier this week at the NFL owners meeting.
“When I was in Tampa, I coached a guy named Ronde Barber,” Gruden said. “He may have been, perhaps, my favorite player I ever coached. He wasn’t the biggest guy and he wasn’t the fastest guy, but when he put the helmet on, something happened to him.
“Joyner is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Ronde as a slot corner. I think he’s the best. I think he has a chance to be dynamic in there.”
Joyner started his NFL career as a slot cornerback but switched to free safety the last two seasons with the L.A. Rams. He also thrived in that role, so it’s likely he’ll play free safety in the base defense while moving to the slot in sub packages.
Joyner said a few weeks ago he enjoys switching back and forth, and doing so could help the Raiders secondary. The team would consequently need depth at safety, and Erik Harris or Curtis Riley could compete to play deep when Joyner moves inside.
Joyner will anchor a secondary loaded with young players in the starting lineup, including Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley and Karl Joseph.
“His leadership ... when you meet Lamarcus Joyner, he’ll be the favorite guy you’ve met in a while,” Gruden said. You’re going to like him. There’s something about this guy that’s special. I think the Rams would tell you that. That’s why he was franchise tagged.
"His ability in the slot is rare. That’s a guy who comes in and replaces a linebacker, and Lamarcus will hit you like a linebacker.”