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So this was the player the Oakland Raiders used a first-round draft pick on in 2016.
A 5-foot-10, 205-pound whirling dervish, flying around the field and showing up wherever the ball was with bad intentions. Not damaged goods coming off a torn ACL and enduring turf toe that forced him to miss four games of his rookie season.
Yes, it’s a small sample size — two games into the 2017 season — but Karl Joseph has validated Oakland using the No. 14 overall selection on him last year by being a defensive playmaker at strong safety.
Joseph blitzed six times against the New York Jets in Week 2, sacking Josh McCown once and compiling four quarterback hurries, per Pro Football Focus.
As such, Joseph was PFF’s top-rated NFL safety for the week, with a 90.7 grade. A repeat performance under the lights at FedEx Field on Sunday night will mean bad news for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“I don’t think it’s just me,” Joseph said. “I think it’s the play-call.
“I just happened to blitz a lot … for the game plan. I was happy. I should have definitely got more sacks than I did — I feel like I should have had three — but, you know, I was happy to make that play.”
Through two weeks, PFF has Joseph as the league’s No. 6-ranked safety. And while he was named to an all-rookie team or three last season, Joseph has made a big leap in his development already.
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Because beside flying around the edge on blitzes, he also had an acrobatic pass breakup in the end zone on a fade in the opener at Tennessee.
“If you watch him closely, I’m sure you have, you see his development has been really, really nice,” Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “He was very active last week. He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage. He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”
Added coach Jack Del Rio of the West Virginia product: “He’s an aggressive guy … he likes to be brought. He makes plays happen when he does. We’ll pick our spots, as we do with everything, but it was good to see him have a nice, productive game last week.”
Joseph was part of a defense that gave up more than 1,000 total yards of offense in Weeks 1 and 2 last season. Thus far in 2017, Oakland is the No. 17 total defense, giving up an average of 310.5 yards.
And the Raiders are doing it with two rookie starters in defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and middle linebacker Marquel Lee; cornerback Gareon Conley — this year’s first-round pick — also had a solid debut against the Jets.
Suddenly, Joseph is a grizzled veteran in the secondary, though not as battle-tested as free safety Reggie Nelson, who is in his 11th NFL season.
“I think we’re way ahead where we were last year,” Joseph said. “I think it’s just with playing more with each other and practice and us having a better understanding of the defense, you know? Being able to go into our second year together … I just know me personally, I’m a lot more comfortable.
“I know exactly what to do on each play and I think everybody feels the same way. We’re just a lot more comfortable, getting used to playing with each other.”