Defensively speaking, the Las Vegas Raiders were terrible in 2020, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions in-house already.
Raiders should give Lamarcus Joyner another shot
You might be asking yourself how there could be in-house solutions after such a bad season on defense. The answer is simple. The Raiders suffered from truly inept coaching on that side of the ball for the last three years. Paul Guenther’s unit had a historically bad season, so bad he has relieved of his duties before 2020 ended. One of the players that regressed under said coaching was defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.
It wasn’t long ago that Joyner was one of the team’s premier offseason acquisitions, signing back in 2019. To say Joyner has struggled with the Raiders would be an understatement. However, it’s not entirely his fault. It’s up to NFL coaches to make use of their players’ strengths, that’s coaching 101. Sadly, Guenther didn’t do that with Joyner. The question is if his career in Las Vegas can be resuscitated? Definitely, and it will be up to new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to make it happen.
Can Lamarcus Joyner turn it around under Gus Bradley?
It wasn’t that long ago that Joyner was one of the better free safeties in the NFL. His two previous years before joining the Raiders were noteworthy and should’ve translated into success with his new squad. Joyner accumulated three tackles for a loss, 12 passes defensed and four interceptions. 2018 was one of his best years overall, posting impressive Pro Football Grades across the board. 75.0, 90.1, and 71.2 were his grades for run defense, pass rush, and coverage, respectively.
— Kris Wysong (@KrisWysong) March 12, 2019
Joyner’s coverage skills should’ve allowed him to thrive, plays like the one above were evidence of his awareness in the backfield. Unfortunately, he was forced to man the slot in Guenther’s defense, a position he clearly has had no business playing. It’s not a knock on Joyner the player though. Rather, it’s puzzling that a coach would insist on placing his player in a position to fail. Not just fail but fail miserably, Joyner has surrendered 999 yards in coverage, five touchdowns, and 94 completions these last two years.
By comparison, back in 2018 when he played free safety, Joyner only gave up 279 receiving yards and one touchdown in 15 regular-season games. To make matters worse, ’29’ didn’t come cheap, as he currently has one of the most expensive contracts on the Raiders. Hopefully, Bradley recognizes what he has in Joyner and salvages his career by putting him back as a safety alongside Johnathan Abram.
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*Top Photo: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports