ALAMEDA, Calif. — Defensive back Daryl Worley has played all over the field for the Raiders in 2019. But after waiving safety D.J. Swearinger on Tuesday, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Worley will now start at safety for a group that’s endured significant change due to injuries.
“We think Worley has some game-changing ability,” Gruden said. “We think he can play corner and safety. I think he’s got a little Malcolm Jenkins in him. I think he’s got some skill we need to use more of.”
Gruden has touted Worley’s versatility throughout the season, and the defensive back said he feels comfortable playing safety.
“They have that confidence in me. They know that my study from the beginning is always to study all positions — just knowing what the guys around you are doing, it makes your job that much easier,” Worley said. “So being able to make that transition and move to different positions, I’ve been doing it all year. It’s nothing new.”
Worley admitted the constant change in the secondary has been tough to deal with. After going through training camp, rookie safety Johnathan Abram suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 1. Then the club traded cornerback Gareon Conley to the Texans in October. Then safety Karl Joseph suffered a season-ending injury in early November.
Now after four games with D.J. Swearinger — three of which he started — Gruden decided to make another change.
“No disrespect to D.J. He was in a tough spot,” Gruden said.
“You work all training camp and things like that to build chemistry with the guys around you, and who you’re going to be out there on the field with. So to see so many different moving parts, guys in and out, it’s tough,” Worley said. “But at the same time, you know everyone’s professionals. They’re going to step in and be able to accomplish what’s being asked of them.”
While Worley said he hasn’t played safety full-time since high school, he said he thinks it’s a “way easier” position to play than corner.
“I feel like as a corner, your preparation is more worried about that guy that you know you’re going to line up against each and every snap,” Worley said. “Really, you can’t miss a step when you’re out there at corner, I feel like. Your press technique has to be perfect. Everything has to be really on point each and every snap. Compared to safety, you really have some time, some space to do a lot more different things.”
Gruden said that while there was some thought of putting Lamarcus Joyner at safety, a position he played for two years with the Los Angeles Rams, that would then create a vacancy at nickel corner. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a positive for the defense.
“Lamarcus is a valuable part of our team as the nickel. And I don’t want to break in a new nickel either,” Gruden said. “So it’s rob Peter to pay Paul — once you move your nickel, you’ve got to find a new nickel. Those guys don’t grow on trees either. But we’ve lost two really good safeties, and in fairness to our team we’re going to put Worley in there.”
Worley entered the NFL as a Panthers third-round pick in 2016. He’s played in 54 games — 47 starts — recording five interceptions, 34 passes defensed, 10 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. This season, Worley has started all 13 games, making one interception, defending eight passes and making a fumble recovery.