Jets safety Lamarcus Joyner would like to make one thing perfectly clear: "I don't think I'm trying to turn my career around."
Those words were among his first comments to reporters after practice as the Green & White prepared on Wednesday for their first preseason game of the year, against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night.
Joyner, 30, signed in free agency from Las Vegas, spent two modest seasons with the Raiders after playing five seasons with the Rams. In 2017-18 in Los Angeles, Joyner (playing mostly free safety after a shift from nickel) allowed three touchdowns and only 0.32 yards per coverage snap; in his final season with the Rams he played in and started 15 games and had 58 solo tackles.
The Raiders liked Joyner playing the nickel.
"Being that free safety is a natural feel, it's easier to come to work every day knowing where I fit," Joyner said. "With the nickel, they were transitioning me to something they wanted me to be because I have the ability. In football you have to be mentally and emotionally ready to go, and I was not emotionally ready for nickel."
In the Jets' evolving defense under coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, Joyner is celebrated for his experience and versatility.
"Lamarcus, we all know he was a nickel the last two years with the Raiders," Ulbrich told Eric Allen of nyjets.com. "Is that what he's made to be? I think he can do anything well, he's so versatile. But I think we've found a home for him that's really going to take advantage of his skillset. He'll not only play the safety position but will play a version of that nickel as well and come down and cover receivers. So I'm really excited about utilizing both guys because they have such unique skill sets."
Ulbrich's endorsement is music to Joyner's ears. It's the kind of positive reinforcement and coaching IQ that drew Joyner to the Jets.
"Coach Saleh? I was familiar with him and his schematics from being out West," Joyner said. "I got to witness with my own two eyes how good a job he did with the 49ers. There were some underrated DBs on that roster who turned around their careers because of him.
"Coaches and personality matters. I think my style of play marries very well with Coach Saleh."
If the safeties are in their own "room," it's a pretty exclusive group -- Joyner, veteran Marcus Maye, second-year man Ashytn Davis (who is injured and expected to return in Week 2 of the regular season), J.T. Hassel and Sharrod Neasman . The situation at cornerback is a bit different, where Ulbrich is working with a group that is light on experience but heavy on determination. Joyner likes what he sees among that group.
"It's great to look at them and remember being a rookie, a second-year player and going up to guys and asking them how long you been in the league and they're like eight seasons," Joyner said. "And I'm like, man you're old. So it amazes me that I'm that guy now. But it's just fun because keeping up with them keeps me going so I get the hang on to my youth by being with youth. So it's great for me."
He added: "They are very talented and very underrated. But we have to prove it, we all have to prove it."
The defense being installed for the Jets has elements of the scheme used in Seattle and San Francisco as Saleh honed his approach along his coaching journey. With the 49ers, players like Jimmie Ward wreaked havoc with their aggressive play all over the field. The expected safety tandem of Joyner and Marcus Maye is an interesting combination -- Joyner from Florida State, Maye from the University of Florida; Seminole and Gator, both now in green.
"I'm hearing that we have a coach who was a Gator as well," Joyner said while referring to DB/safeties coach Marquand Manuel. "They try to get on me. But I got the ring, so I got that on them." Joyner was a member of FSU's 2013 national championship team when he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Ulbrich said the twosome of Joyner and Maye at safety (without ruling out Davis) gives the Jets a unique and exciting combo.
"Larmarus is unique, he can go down and play on receivers in man capacity, which is hard to do for a safety body," Ulbrich said. "His experience of playing nickel with the Raiders will be huge for us. Go back and watch the 49ers' defenses. What really unlocked that defense was their ability to cover receivers with Jimmie Ward.
"It will be really exciting to use both guys' skill sets. I think they're great counterparts."