Karl Joseph’s first season in the NFL was a bit of a rollercoaster. Injuries and a steep rookie learning curve kept Joseph from having the impact the Raiders hoped he’d have.
Now, in Year 2, everything is different. Joseph is healthy, he’s completely comfortable in the defensive scheme and he’s growing into the strong safety Reggie McKenzie hoped he was getting when he took him in the first round of the 2016 draft out of West Virginia.
In Week 1 of this season, Joseph had nine tackles and made a couple of standout plays to break up possible Titans completions, including one that looked like a certain touchdown. Last week in the win over the Jets he was all over the field, blitzing six times, stopping the run and providing strong pass coverage. The analytic website Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade for a safety in the NFL in Week 2. Joseph had a sack, a forced fumble, four quarterback pressures and was in on five tackles.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told Michael Wagaman of the San Francisco Chronicle this week that Joseph is evolving into a difference-maker on defense.
“That’s what he’s supposed to do,” Del Rio said of Joseph’s strong first two games. “He’s supposed to make plays. He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well.
“There are still things that have cleaning up to do, work to do, improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously, it follows up from a good offseason.”
Joseph, in fact, thought his performance vs. the Jets should have been even better. He thought he should have had three sacks vs. the Jets, not one.
The Raiders will try to keep things going Sunday night. They’ll travel cross-country to take on 1-1 Washington and quarterback Kirk Cousins in a nationally televised game.
“It’s probably going to be the most dynamic offense we’ve faced so far, as far as the weapons they have and line and all that stuff,” Joseph told the media. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us, especially in the secondary.”