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.
“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.”