NAPA, Calif. -- As the play unfolded in front of him last Saturday, Karl Joseph read the hole opening on the right side of the line and did not hesitate. The Oakland Raiders second-year strong safety saw David Johnson make a cut and Joseph planted his foot and made a beeline for the Arizona Cardinals running back.
With a 10-yard running start, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Joseph absolutely thumped the 6-1, 224-pound Johnson on the third play of the game. A stunned Johnson appeared to be checked on by an official after he got up.
It was the biggest hit of the Raiders' exhibition opener and, well, you might say it was the biggest hit Joseph has delivered thus far in his nascent NFL career.
"It was fun," Joseph said. "It's fun to get to hit somebody else in the first preseason game. There's definitely a lot of room for improvement. We're nowhere near where we want to be yet, but it was definitely fun to go out there and get to be physical."
Despite Joseph's relatively small stature, he was drafted by the Raiders in the first round of the 2016 draft, in part, for his hard-hitting ability. Even as he was coming off a torn ACL that would prove to be bothersome for most of his rookie season.
Turf toe cost him four games late last year.
"That's what he is," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of Joseph. "He is a guy that strikes people. There is a certain amount of that that you got to see (in Arizona). We expect to get that kind of thing from Karl."
In 12 games last season, Joseph had an interception, a fumble recovery, six passes defensed, a stuff and 60 tackles.
Now, his knee and toe in the past, he feels even better.
"Definitely, I felt like I was a lot more confident in what I was doing and where I was moving," he said. "I wasn't thinking about it and I wasn't hesitating. It felt good to be out there.
"That's part of growing in that one-year experience. I still make mistakes, but I think I'm definitely a lot more comfortable than I was last year in being able to see the whole field and being able to process everything a little faster."