Lamarcus Joyner embracing Raiders leadership role, return to slot corner


Lamarcus Joyner embracing Raiders leadership role, return to slot corner

Lamarcus Joyner sits atop the Raiders depth chart at free safety. He has not played the position even once since training camp began.

Joyner is the Raiders slot cornerback. He can do so much more, but the Raiders have him locked on that one vital position, which doesn’t fit neatly into a standard NFL depth chart.

He might not have many “starts” to his credit, but Joyner doesn’t care about any of that. He loves his role with the Raiders and is fine not rotating between safety and the slot these days. Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram seem secure in the back, which allows Joyner to do what he loves most.

“That fits my persona,” Joyner said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “To take me away from the slot and put me in the post, that’s not doing any justice. I think I play the ball well, the run well. I can cover. I can run and hit. All of those things are great. Being in the slot, I can flash all of my abilities from that position.”

Joyner has great respect for the position, one finally getting its due as a spot far different from outside cornerback. It’s a hybrid position with run responsibilities and a "two-way go", with a sideline to reign in receivers. Joyner loves the challenge, the difficulty that it brings.

“To me, it’s the hardest position on the field because of the responsibilities you have,” Joyner said. “There are different rules in the run game and the passing game. It’s just a tough position. For me, I don’t look at myself as a nickel back or a cornerback or a safety. I’m a defensive back, so if Coach needs me to do something else in a game, it’s a great weapon for the organization to have.”

As you’ve read, Joyner isn’t lacking confidence. The 28-year old has no reason to after five solid seasons with the Rams, the last one played on a franchise tag.

It was also spent at free safety, a disappointing turn that somewhat sullied a run to the Super Bowl.

“It was a lonely, boring season,” Joyner said. “I didn’t really get to enjoy 2018 as much, just as a post player. Nickel was my inclination. That’s my natural position. Free safety is something I can do. I can even play the outside, but nickel is where my heart is. That’s when you can see the passion and the laughter and the joy.”

The laughter, passion and joy Joyner is playing with this preseason has made him the secondary’s resident advisor, an older (but not old) veteran watching over a predominantly young crew. Joyner hasn’t always been counted on for such vocal leadership, but it’s a role he’s welcoming.

“I’m big on watching National Geographic, watching how the wolf works in the pack, and how one lion takes control in the pride,” Joyner said. “When you’ve been to the playoffs or the Super Bowl or just have a history of making plays, people gravitate toward that. I’m a guy people have watched in college.

"When you have those accolades and you go about your business the right way and you’re a true pro, which gives you a leadership role. I have been embracing that here. It has been an honor to work with some of these guys, who always looked up to me.”

Joyner has made it clear he didn’t sign a four-year contract to be a role model. He came to play.

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“I embrace the leadership role, but I also let it be known, to Coach Gruden and Mike Mayock, that I’m not old,” Joyner said. “I’m 28 and I still move like I’m 19. I just have to throw that out there because the older you get, the closer you are to getting thrown out that door. I let them know that I’m not old. I have a lot of experience and wisdom, but I can still get after it.”

Why Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey, who wants to play in Las Vegas

Why Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey, who wants to play in Las Vegas

Let's get the obvious out of the way: Jalen Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL. Full stop.

The 24-year-old has shown he has the talent to go up against the best receivers in the game and come out on top. He has been a key component of a Jaguars' defense that has been one of the best in the NFL over the past two seasons.

And now he reportedly has requested a trade, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Friction between Ramsey and the Jags has been brewing for quite some time, and it appeared to boil over Sunday when he got into a sideline argument with head coach Doug Marrone.

Now, there's no telling whether or not Ramsey will get his way, but he's already told us where he would want to play if given the choice: the Raiders or the Titans. 

Ramsey is from Nashville, so playing in front of his hometown team would make sense, but would the Raiders be interested? Better yet, should they be?

Short answer: Yes and yes.

Following the Antonio Brown saga that ended with the Raiders releasing the receiver before he ever played a snap in Oakland, head coach Jon Gruden might want to avoid players prone to drama. Make no mistake, Ramsey, while brash and confident, is not Antonio Brown, and to suggest so because he has requested a trade is irresponsible. Now, that isn't to say Ramsey is without headache, and it's fair to wonder if general manager Mike Mayock and Gruden would want to go down that road again. Would Gruden even want to handle the quote-unquote volatile superstar, which Ramsey has, either fairly or unfairly, been labeled?

But the bottom line is simple: Talent talks.

Gruden should see an opportunity to collect talent and take his secondary from mediocre at best to almost elite. The easiest way to accelerate a rebuild is to acquire top-tier talent.

The Raiders already boast talented young corners Gareon Conley and Trayvon Mullen, along with veteran slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Cornerback Daryl Worley will be a free agent after this season, and Conley still is on his rookie contract, which could go through 2021 if the Raiders exercise his fifth-year option.

Acquiring Ramsey would allow the Raiders to move Conely to the No. 2 corner position and give Mullen time to become the star his talent suggests he is. Once the Clemson product is fully actualized, the Raiders could have one of the most elite secondaries in recent memory. The Raiders did use two high draft picks on Mullen and Conley, and they might not want to relegate Mullen to the No. 3 corner for the near future, but it's a problem only teams stocked with talent have to worry about. It's a good problem to have.

Now, there's the issue of what it would take to acquire Ramsey and the cost to keep him in silver and black once his contract is up. The Jaguars reportedly are looking for a first-round draft pick. The Raiders have two in next year's draft thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, and swapping the lower of the two would be well worth the cost of acquiring a 24-year-old All-Pro cornerback.

Once Ramsey's contract is up, he's made it clear he won't take a discount. He wants to get paid. As he should. By virtue of voiding Brown's guaranteed money and ejecting him to Foxboro, the Raiders saved $30 million and have the capital to make Ramsey a Raider long term. It seems like a perfect match.

Maybe you aren't sold on Ramsey or you think the price is too high. So, let's look at the numbers.

The Chiefs are the team the Raiders are trying to catch in the AFC West, and as seen Sunday in KC's 28-10 win, they have a ways to go. The Chiefs also didn't have elite speedster Tyreek Hill and still torched the Raiders. If the Raiders are going to be seeing Hill two times a year for the foreseeable future, they should want to acquire a guy who has been able to bottle up the Chiefs' dynamic weapon. 

During last season's Jags-Chiefs game, Hill went up against Ramsey on 18 snaps. Of those 18 snaps, Hill was targeted just five times and caught two balls for 47 yards. When the two matched up in Week 1 this season, Hill caught two passes for 16 yards against Ramsey before leaving with an injury. 

Ramsey currently faces Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins two times a season and it's been a battle since Ramsey came into the league. Coming into Sunday's matchup. Hopkins had caught 18 passes on 32 targets in his career against Ramsey, averaging 8.6 yards per target and scoring twice since 2017. But Sunday, Ramsey allowed Hopkins to tally just 27 yards on seven targets in the Texans' 14-13 win.

Ramsey also has battled Brown, now with the Patriots, during his career. When facing the dynamic receiver, Ramsey has allowed him to catch nine passes on 13 targets for 155 yards. But he hasn't allowed a touchdown and has picked off two passes intended for Brown. Elite receivers are going to get their Ws, but Ramsey has played the best of the best tougher than anyone.

The AFC is full of talented receivers, and while Conley is good, Ramsey is the best cover guy in the NFL bar none and he's still just 24.

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Mayock and Gruden made it their mission in the offseason to get younger, faster and more talented. Ramsey checks all those boxes and he gives you an elite player at one of the most important positions in football.

If the Jags ask for the Bears' first-round draft pick, Gruden should fly the rights to the selection to Jacksonville himself and bring Ramsey back with him.

Draft picks are exciting because they are based in the unknown. In what they could turn in to.

We know what Ramsey is: The best at his position. And he wants to play in Las Vegas.

Case closed.

Raiders' Jon Gruden wants more production from edge rusher Arden Key

Raiders' Jon Gruden wants more production from edge rusher Arden Key

ALAMEDA – Raiders edge rusher Arden Key had a strong preseason. The second-year pro showed significant improvement in his run defense, with gains in size and strength that aid his pass rush.

Quality summer work hasn’t set him on a hot start. Key has just three quarterback pressures -- one quarterback hit and two hurries -- in his first two games.

He has played a total of 52 snaps, with 40 of those rushing the passer.

They haven’t been terribly productive early in the year. The Raiders were hoping for the opposite, to get quality from Key as a situational pass rusher.

That hasn’t been the case to this point, something head coach Jon Gruden was frank about during his Monday press conference.

“We have got to get more out of Arden. I’ve said that for long enough,” Gruden said. “Arden, if you are listening, we got to get you going. He’s a good player. He’s had a good training camp; he’s healthy.

“We put our defensive line in some tough spots yesterday for a lot of reasons to try and stop their running game, and it did stymie I think some of the guys’ ability to rush the passer, but Arden is going to get home. Arden is going to take off here hopefully soon.”

[RELATED: Raiders' pass-rush rotation ineffective in loss to Chiefs]

Key generally is active in the sub package, working with Maxx Crosby or Benson Mayowa on the edge and Clelin Ferrell and other rotating rushers on the inside.

The Raiders need production from Key to make that package successful, lest last year’s pass-rushing struggles linger on in 2019.