August 10, 2016

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) Lamarcus Joyner left a big impression on the practice field at UC Irvine last week even without making the hard hit.

Joyner diagnosed the swing pass and sped to the spot where Tavon Austin intended to cut up-field.

The crowd gasped and waited for the inevitable collision, only for the third-year Los Angeles Rams cornerback to leisurely step past Austin without contact. It was a decision Joyner wouldn't have made early on in his career.

''He hit everything his first year here,'' coach Jeff Fisher said on Tuesday. ''Anything that was moving he hit, even if we did have pads on, and now he is learning to settle down a little bit.''

Joyner is also getting the chance to make his case for the starting spot left vacant when Janoris Jenkins signed with the New York Giants as a free agent in March.

After mostly defending slot receivers since being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, Joyner is working more on the outside during training camp.

The Rams are being cautious in bringing back E.J. Gaines, who was projected to start opposite Jenkins last season before suffering a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, freeing up reps for Joyner and Coty Sensabaugh.

The change in assignment is nothing compared to how varied Joyner's responsibilities were at Florida State.

During Joyner's previous visit to the area for the 2014 BCS national championship game at the Rose Bowl, then-Seminoles defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt marveled at Joyner's ability to play any of the six positions in the FSU secondary. Joyner started 27 games at safety during his sophomore and junior seasons before moving to corner.

''He's just an all-around good football player,'' Pruitt said.

The Rams scaled back Joyner's role from his college days in his first two seasons, putting his focus instead at nickel back. But Joyner has no issues with how he has been used.

''Football is football,'' Joyner said. ''I'm going to give my heart and soul wherever they put me. If that is at O-line, defensive end, cornerback, slot, it doesn't matter. I'm going to play 110 percent.''

Fisher likes how Joyner has performed as a slot defender, where he had 54 tackles and two sacks in 2015. Since the Rams usually have five or more defensive backs on the field to account for the proliferation of multiple-receivers sets and spread offenses, Joyner will be busy no matter where he lines up.

''If he could end up getting the job done outside, that's only going to make us better,'' Fisher said.

If he does, Joyner would do so without the prototypical size NFL teams now desire in a starting cornerback. Listed at 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds, Joyner's desire to prove himself might have fueled his initial recklessness during practice. That approach, however, is long gone.

''It's not Little League days where you have to show everyone that you are tough every second,'' Joyner said.

Still, Joyner enjoys reminding Austin and everyone else that he can deliver the big hit whenever he chooses.

''You just get to let the guys know that you would have made the play, and come Sunday you do make those plays,'' Joyner said. ''That's the fun part.''


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