No way was Jack Del Rio going to tip his hand this week as to whether Karl Joseph was going to start against the Titans Sunday. Why should he? When he shocked everyone by starting Keith McGill in the opener and McGill had a decent first game.
The safety play wasn’t so hot against the Falcons in Oakland last week along with an overall pathetic defensive performance.
Jack Del Rio has not been happy about it in the least. The former defensive coordinator is calling for big changes, which is to include getting his top pick safety in on defense this week against the Titans, stating that “It’s time to see Karl.”
Joseph said he was sharing reps this week while defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr said earlier this week that we will see Joseph play, but how much would depend on how he practices. Joseph is practicing as if he will be getting the start
“I’m hungry, I want to be out there, it hurts to not be out there,” said Joseph. “So, I’m gonna keep preparing like I’m starting, like I’m gonna play every single snap.”
Joseph was expected to be the starter from day one as the team’s selection at 14 overall which filled a major need at safety. Not only has he not started, but he hasn’t seen a single snap on defense; only seeing the field on special teams.
It has been a process for the rookie who fell behind having not practiced throughout the offseason program while continuing to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered his senior season at West Virginia.
“Every week I’m making progress,” said Joseph. “I’m learning the defense and being able to see everything faster. Also with my health as well, so I’m getting more confidence every week. But I’ve been felt like I’m ready.”
It’s been difficult for the star defensive back to be relegated to special teams, especially while the Raiders defense has been unable to stop any opposing offense. Whatever his issues, they certainly couldn’t make this unit look worse at this point.
“Me as a competitor, I don’t like being on the sideline,” he continued. “I want to be out there with the team, seeing those guys, I want to be out there making plays to help the team win. It definitely hurts, it’s been hard, but I just gotta stay patient and just keep preparing all week like I’m gonna get my opportunity and whenever I do get my opportunity, I just gotta make the best of it.”
His head coach agrees Joseph has made progress. And despite how hard it was for him to sit and watch the first couple games, Del Rio thinks it may have helped ensure his young safety is ready.
“Not being an active participant on defense the first couple of games gave him a chance to see from that perspective and grow as a young player,” said Del Rio. “Maybe catch up on some of the time that we didn’t have during the offseason when he wasn’t able to go as much. What I’m most impressed with is his attitude has been great. He works hard. He’s conscientious. He’s got some explosive abilities as a football player. I think the health issue is really kind of behind him now. I feel good about that. I feel good about the way he’s preparing. Now we just look forward to all of us going out and playing well on Sunday.”
It’s hard to say if Joseph could have learned those same lessons on the field or if his presence would have made the difference. We will soon find out.