The Raiders’ last defensive stand against the Chargers was a costly one.
With 30 seconds left, slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner limped off the field after appearing to injure his right leg in coverage. Two plays later, safety Karl Joseph suffered a season-ending foot injury in making the interception that sealed a 26-24 win last Thursday night.
It has left the Raiders, 5-4 and a half-game back of first place in the AFC West, rearranging parts in their secondary.
On Saturday, the Raiders signed safety D.J. Swearinger and placed Joseph on injured reserve. Joyner, meanwhile, did not practice Monday due to a hamstring injury and will likely be questionable for the upcoming game against the Bengals, head coach Jon Gruden said.
Gruden named Daryl Worley, the Raiders’ top outside cornerback, and Nevin Lawson, who has played 49 defensive snaps this season, as capable of playing slot corner if Joyner is unavailable. In that scenario, rookie Isaiah Johnson, who played one snap in his debut Thursday, could have a larger role.
“You’ve already lost your middle linebacker, now you lose your second safety and your nickel corner potentially,” Gruden said. “It’s tough.”
For Joseph, who said Monday his injury happened “as soon as I planted to go get the ball,” the timing was difficult for multiple reasons.
After admittedly needing time last season to grasp the Raiders’ new defense, Joseph appeared to be playing with more confidence in the first half of this season. He had played every defensive snap of the last six games, is second among Raiders players with 49 tackles and made win-securing plays in the last two games, also breaking up a 4th-and-goal try against the Lions in Week 10.
“I don’t think it was just me necessarily,” Joseph said. “I believe we started playing some really good football and I really wanted to be a part of this team going forward. I believe we have a strong chance to go to the playoffs. That’s what’s frustrating for me.”
Joseph was on crutches Monday and said he was waiting for the swelling in his foot to subside before being re-evaluated. A first-round pick in 2016, Joseph is scheduled to hit free agency for the first time this offseason after the Raiders opted not to exercise his fifth-year option this spring. He made it clear Monday he would be interested in returning.
“Of course, man,” Joseph said. “This is the team that drafted me. I love playing with this group of guys. I love playing for this coaching staff. I love playing in (defensive coordinator Paul) Guenther’s system. I think it’s a great system for me, for the safeties. We’ll see what happens. It’s out of my control now. All I can do is just try to get healthy and get better.”
Without their Week 1 starting safeties – rookie Johnathan Abram was lost for the season to a shoulder injury in the opener – the Raiders’ group includes starter Erik Harris, Curtis Riley, Dallin Leavitt and Swearinger, a player they originally tried to acquire last season.
After Washington released Swearinger last December – following his critical comments of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky – the Raiders put in a waiver claim but were beaten out by the Cardinals, who had a higher waiver priority.
Swearinger started the first four games this season for Arizona before being released. He said Monday he “didn’t do as well as in the past” but thought Arizona “pulled the trigger too early” releasing him.
“These last couple weeks have been great for me,” Swearinger said. “I needed the time off to get myself together. I couldn’t be more ready for this opportunity to get here and work hard.”
Swearinger, a former second-round pick who has also played for – and been released by – the Texans and Buccaneers, said his outside read of the Raiders was: “They’ve got grit.” In Washington, Swearinger played for Jay Gruden, brother of Jon. He described the two as “totally different guys.”
“Jay is more laid-back, Jon is more in-your-face,” Swearinger said. “I’m a more in-your-face guy as well. So I think I fit him better.”
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