When it comes to coach Grudens, D.J. Swearinger has gotten his fair share. The new Oakland Raider and veteran safety made no bones about the newest Gruden in his life. “They’re two totally different guys. Jay is more laid back. Jon is more in your face with it,” Swearinger said of coaching bros Jay and Jon Gruden. “I’m more of an in your face guy as well. I think I fit him better.”
After losing Karl Joseph to a foot injury during last Thursday night’s win over AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers to improve to 5-4 on the year, the Raiders are banking on Swearinger fitting right in.It’s not a new system for me because Arizona ran the exact same system,” Swearinger said of Oakland’s defense under coordinator Paul Guenther. “Just got to get the different terminology, which is sort of the similar terminology in Arizona — almost identical — with a few coverages so it’s not a hard transition for me. I’m going to fit right in, do my studying and make it happen.”
In Joseph, the Raiders lost a thumper in the secondary — a player willing to get his nose dirty in run support and make sure tackles — in Swearinger the team gains a safety of similar skill set. Both are 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds and neither shy away from contact, welcoming it even. Swearinger will draw flags for his collisions. The box Swearinger checks more often than Joseph is takeaways. The 28-year-old has snagged 14 career interceptions to Joseph’s four.
“I like Swearinger,” Gruden said during Monday’s presser. “He played with my brother in Washington and I was a broadcaster. At one point I spent a lot of time at South Carolina with my friend [Steve] Spurrier, so I know a little bit about Swearinger. I think he’s a good player. He’s just got to put it all together. That’s what he needs to do and he’s got to start that process today. We need the very best of Swearinger and we need guys like [Dallin] Leavitt and we need these other safeties to step up as well, just like Erik Harris has done.” The feeling is mutual.
“They got grit and it starts with the head coach,” Swearinger said of the Raiders. “I love the head coach, I’ve always loved coach Gruden. From way back in college, from him doing Monday nights. I know what he brings to football and I know playing for a coach like that we’re going to bring it every time we step on the field. He expects that. The guys in the locker room … there are some young guys but they are talented and they want to go to work and you can help but come in and get with the coach.”
The Raiders have a ballhawk at safety in the journeyman Harris, but they’re in dire need of an enforcer now that Joseph is on season-ending injured reserve. Swearinger can bring that plus ball skills. Like Gruden lamented, the safety needs to put it all together. Swearinger said he’s ready and coming in with a clear mind. “I’ve been doing a lot of work for myself, body, mind and spirit,” Swearinger said. “Spending a lot of time with my family, reading a lot of books, working out a lot. These last weeks have been great for me. I needed this time off, to get myself together. I couldn’t be more ready for this opportunity to get here and work hard.”