First-round pick Karl Joseph set for defensive debut with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- If Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio famously wondered why rookie strong safety Karl Joseph had yet to play a defensive snap through two games, he was not about to question his first-round pick’s ability to show his wares on defense.

And Del Rio was not going to say just how much Joseph was going to play against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, either. Rather, Joseph marinating on the sidelines while getting in some hits on special teams may have actually been a benefit, Del Rio said.

“I think what missing the first couple of games, or 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,” Del Rio said. “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.”

Joseph missed the offseason program while rehabbing the surgically-repaired ACL in his right knee, having suffered the injury last fall while at West Virginia. Joseph did, though, run with the first-team defense in training camp and started all four exhibition games.

But after being listed behind Nate Allen on the team’s first regular-season depth chart, Joseph watched Keith McGill start the first two games at strong safety.

Joseph said this week he was “dying” to play.

“Me, as a competitor, I don’t like being on the sidelines,” Joseph said. “I want to be out there with the team. I want to be out there and make plays and help the team win. It definitely hurts; it’s been hard, but I’ve just been staying patient and ... preparing all week like I’m going to get my opportunity. And whenever I do get my opportunity, make the best of it.”

Del Rio took notice, especially with the Raiders having given up a combined 1,035 yards of offense to the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

“What I’m most impressed with is, his attitude has been great,” Del Rio said. “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.”