<
>

Jack Del Rio anticipates first-rounder Karl Joseph making his NFL defensive debut vs. Titans

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- If you’re wondering why Karl Joseph, the Oakland Raiders’ first-round draft pick, has yet to play on defense through two games, you’re not alone.

“I think that’s a fair question to ask,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Monday in his weekly media conference. “I asked that question myself.”

Wait, what? The head coach is wondering why his rookie strong safety has yet to see a single defensive snap in his nascent NFL career?

“I really believed that he should have got in the game yesterday,” Del Rio continued. “We’ll make sure that he gets in the game going forward. I think it’s time to see Karl. Yeah, I think that’s a fair question to ask. I think you can anticipate him getting some action this week.”

Especially with the Raiders defense getting torched with regularity, giving up 1,035 yards of total offense to the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons with a combined 819 passing yards, seven touchdown passes and one interception surrendered to Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.

True, Joseph is coming back from a torn ACL that limited him to four games and five interceptions last year at West Virginia and kept him out of the Raiders’ entire offseason program. But when camp began, there was Joseph, running with the first-team defense in every preseason game.

That is until the first depth chart of the season was unveiled, which had Nate Allen as the starter, and then the season opener, which saw Keith McGill starting at strong safety. And after a solid game against the Saints in which he had the eighth-best grade among safeties at 83.5, McGill’s overall grade of 40.4 against the Falcons ranked 67th in the NFL among all safeties Monday morning, per Pro Football Focus. McGill was charged with four catches for 52 yards on five targets.

In New Orleans and against Atlanta, Joseph has played a combined 16 special-teams snaps.

“I’m not sure what it means,” Joseph told ESPN.com before the season opener and, really, his feelings could be applied today.

“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I obviously have a lot to learn still, my role and fit with the defense … but I’m going to use it as motivation.”

Del Rio said Joseph has made progress since the season began and anticipates seeing him make his NFL debut on defense this weekend against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.

“He’s had a little time to continue to develop himself, physically and mentally,” Del Rio said. “He’s been working hard. He’s champing at the bit. He’s been doing what he can do. He’s been working hard in practice. He’s been working hard in the weight room, doing a little extra with … the trainers. He’s been on top of it.

“Quite frankly, I came out of the game yesterday saying, ‘Why didn’t we get him in?’ Keith struggled. He had some struggles yesterday and certainly opened the door for Karl to get in there, but we didn’t pull the trigger on it. I’d like to see him get his opportunities to get in the game starting this week.”