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.”

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