Safety Karl Joseph
You can call it a spark, a jolt, an infusion of energy, whatever you want – heading into the team's Week 3 matchup with the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders defense needed some sort of catalyst.
After starting the season with back-to-back disappointing efforts that saw the opposing quarterbacks throw for north of 800 combined yards, Head Coach Jack Del Rio knew that personnel changes had to be made, and that change came in the form of inserting a pair of rookies into the starting lineup.
Both safety Karl Joseph and linebacker Cory James ran with the starting offense Sunday, and both their presences were certainly felt en route to the 17-10 win – Joseph's in particular, after he played primarily on special teams through the first two games.
"My eyes told me that he did some good things," said Head Coach Del Rio postgame. "I'm sure there will be things that weren't perfect but I thought he gave us throughout the whole week and the way we played and the way the defense played, I thought he gave us a little bit of a spark having him in."
In total, Joseph played 61 snaps in Sunday's win, finishing the game with a team-leading 10 tackles, and helping limit Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to 214 passing yards on 17 of 33 attempts.
"It felt good, man," Joseph said of his performance. "Game started slowing down as the series went on but it felt like we did a great job. We were locked in all week and it showed. I think it was about doing my job. I wasn't trying to do too much or do anything extra but just do my job. If everybody does their job it shows how dominant we can be on defense."
Following the team's return to the Bay Area, Head Coach Jack Del Rio was once again asked about Joseph's performance, and once again he provided a positive review of the rookie's first NFL start.
"As I suspected, there are plenty of things we'll clean up with it, Karl; he was good," Head Coach Del Rio explained. "He came up and hit people, and communicated well, did the right things showing up. He was part of that secondary that played very well."
Coming out of West Virginia University, Joseph was lauded time and time again for his big hits and physicality, despite his size, and although he may be listed at 5'10", his defensive teammates saw that physicality on display Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium.
"I saw Karl coming in there, just flying in there," cornerback DJ Hayden said. "He was out there banging, hitting, and Karl played good for his first game. I knew Karl was a hitter, and today he really showed it. He went in there and put his nose in there and made some good tackles."
Now, Joseph's performance wasn't perfect – the rookie said as much himself postgame – but the fact that he was inserted into the lineup, and that the Titans didn't find the end zone during his time on the field is a good sign for the team's 2016 first-round draft pick.
The Raiders needed a jolt of energy infused into the defense, and Joseph provided just that in Sunday's win over the Titans.