As a rookie projected to help at nickel cornerback, Joyner had every intention of stepping in and contributing right away. He'd come to St. Louis as a second-round pick from national champion Florida State and figured the adjustment would be tough but not too tough to overcome. He was wrong.
"Definitely a humbling experience for me, both on the field, off the field, just a lot of things that come in this league," Joyner said. "Just adapting, learning the system. Coming from a successful year at the college level and you think you know everything and you just need to get adjusted."
Like most rookies, Joyner didn't know what he didn't know. He found himself pressing too hard to make things happen and often got caught out of position. He picked up six penalties in 10 games, including a costly pass interference in a narrow week 3 loss to Dallas.
After playing the nickel for eight of the first nine games, Joyner suffered a groin injury that kept him out for a few weeks. When he returned, E.J. Gaines had staked a claim to the nickel job and Joyner didn't play again until the final two weeks of the season and that only happened because Gaines suffered a concussion in Week 16.
All told, Joyner finished with 37 tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and a healthy dose of disappointment. So he entered this offseason in search of ways to eliminate mistakes and stake his claim to a more permanent role.
Apparently, Joyner's efforts have worked as he says coaches and teammates have taken notice of his improvement.
"I definitely feel good but two witnesses are better than one, you know what I’m saying?" Joyner said. "So it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s about the organization.
"From the words of the coaches, [it's] 'light years.' I feel good, I feel like I’m there mentally which is the most important part at this level. I’m already blessed with the God-given physical ability so I’m pretty caught up."
During organized team activities (OTAs), Joyner says he feels like he's been doing more reacting than thinking, the sign of a player who has a better handle on what he's doing within the confines of the scheme. He also find himself firmly back in the mix to win the team's nickel corner job.
"Wherever my coaches need me, I am to the point where I know a little more about the defense so nickel corner, safety, next man up is our philosophy," Joyner said.
Joyner doesn't appear to have any direct competition for that nickel corner role but that could shift if the Rams decide to bump Gaines inside with Trumaine Johnson handling outside duties when the defense goes to sub-packages. Either way, Joyner believes that so long as he performs, he'll be on the field.
"I feel like my approach is different," Joyner said. "That’s probably coming from the more understanding I have. The more wisdom I have and just knowing what I’m doing. Instead of running out there like a blind dog in a meat house not knowing which way to go, I know what I’m doing so now I can pretty much contribute to the defense."