In his first season with the Raiders in 2019, LaMarcus Joyner had to learn defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's complex schemes while working around an inconsistent secondary marred by injuries.
Now in Year 2 for Las Vegas, Joyner is ready for the challenge of being one of the leaders for a defense eager to make a strong impression after the franchise's offseason move to Sin City.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, almost feel like my second year again in the league," Joyner told reporters Friday (h/t Raiders.com/Kyle Martin). "I went to a complicated system with the Rams and Greg Williams, it takes a lot to learn with those kinds of complicated systems, [like Guenther's]. But I feel much more comfortable and that's going to help me with my confidence, and executing and making more plays."
Head coach Jon Gruden specifically called out Joyner in a passioned plea for his team to step up and lay the wood in 2020, no matter the unique circumstances with training camp amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We got to be ready to tackle," Gruden said pointedly. "We've been under quarantine, we're wearing masks, we haven't been able to tackle. We haven't put a man on the ground yet, we have to tackle better.
"It starts with Joyner, the nickelcorner should be first or second on your team in tackles every year -- that's how it is in Guenther's defense. So, we need him to really get involved in every single snap in our sub defense and be one of our top tacklers. That's the number one criteria we're looking for."
After a full training camp and offseason to more fully comprehend Guenther's playbook, Joyner believes he knows what he needs to improve in order to bring his tackle numbers back up.
"Definitely knowing your run fits, knowing what you should be keying and just doing your job," Joyner said when asked about how to improve tackling. "The nickelback position is almost like the general at the second level -- not the third level with the safeties -- but with the linebackers and understanding where the [defensive] end and the [defensive] tackle is fitting.
"So, it's almost like you're a cover guy and a linebacker, so you definitely have to be technique and fundamentally sound to rack up those tackles and execute."
The Raiders will need Joyner and the rest of the defense to show up in 2020 if they want to avoid another losing season.