One of the Los Angeles Rams biggest concerns entering the 2016-17 NFL season was undoubtedly their secondary. With the departure of Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod in the offseason, there were several holes in the pass defense the Rams were hoping their depth could fill come Week 1.
One of those players was third-year cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who despite making a strong case to start opposite Trumaine Johnson, the return of E.J. Gaines from injury and the arrival of Coty Sensabaugh has somewhat stifled his chances.
This ultimately led to Joyner questioning not only his ability, but his actual will to keep playing should he not perform like he feels he should. During the fifth and final episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, Joyner threatened to quit after expressing frustration to head coach Jeff Fisher:
“The nickel spot inside, it’s the hardest position to play,” Fisher said. “You’re the best that I’ve had here in years. It’s a starting position.”
While it may have seemed like Fisher was doing his best to offer Joyner some solace, there is actually some truth to his statements. Shortly after final cuts were made, the team released their unofficial depth chart that featured Joyner as the starting nickel back courtesy of Myles Simmons of Rams:
— Myles Simmons (@MylesASimmons) September 7, 2016
With the NFL turning into a pass-happy league, a base nickel defense has become somewhat of a norm versus teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Although the nickel usually lines up on the slot receiver, he must also be tough enough to bang inside and provide run support, which Joyner certainly fits the mold.