Karl Joseph making strong case to be in Raiders 2019 plans


Karl Joseph making strong case to be in Raiders 2019 plans

ALAMEDA – Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist sat atop the Raiders safety rotation to start this season. Erik Harris had earned some opportunities over the summer, was working in with are typically three-down starting spots.

Karl Joseph was in the fourth spot, draft status be damned. The Raiders’ 2016 first-round pick was said to have struggled making accurate reads and checks in a new defensive system. He wasn’t playing much the first two weeks, and then suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3 that kept him out three games. He returned after the bye to find himself on the trading block, an unwelcome turn he’s happy never became an actual deal.

He’s been solid since the trade deadline passed, especially after entering the starting lineup on Nov. 11.

Joseph has added toughness and physicality to the defensive front as a rover who can move and play all around the field.

“He’s been a really good open field tackler,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think he’s showing really good range. He’s recognizing plays and he’s making plays. That’s exciting. He’s getting better and better in this defense.”

The third sentence of Gruden’s quote was a perceived weakness. Showing progress in that area has made Joseph a playmaker the Raiders expected when taking him in the first round.

His size presents a disadvantage in some coverage matchups, but the Raiders are doing well to avoid putting him in bad spots. He’s being given a chance to shine, and has taken advantage.

“I'm just trying to get better every game, every week, every practice,” Joseph said after Sunday’s 40-33 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “You just have to keep growing as a player. I'm starting to establish myself more as a role in the defense. Just have to keep building on it. Everything is about wins in this league. We just have to keep getting better, build on this.”

[RELATED: Derek Carr taking Gruden's QB system in stride]

The back end has gotten better with time, as Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley playing well. Rashaan Melvin has his moments, and Joseph brings a new and vital element to proceedings.

He’s a thumper, something the Raiders have missed in recent seasons. He carried that reputation out from West Virginia, but is out to prove he’s more than just a heavy hitter.

He has been better in coverage and strong playing the run, with seven “run stops” tackles Pro Football Focus considers an offensive failure on the ground. He has 18 tackles in this four-game run as a starter, with just one catch allowed.

He had a beauty on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, standing up Chiefs rusher Spencer Ware with a vicious blow. He almost got Ware again on fourth down, but a direct snap to him created just enough misdirection to get past the goal line.

Joseph also just missed an interception against the Chiefs, one that bothered him after the Chiefs loss. That fits Joseph’s personality. He’s critical of his own work, and knows he isn’t playing perfect football.

Even strides are important at this stage of a lost season, as Joseph is already trying to carve out a spot on next year’s squad.

“He has a lot of talent, and I think he’s taking advantage of his opportunities,” Gruden said. “He’s healthy. He’s been able to practice. I think his preparation has a lot to do with his performance. He’s strung some really good weeks together for us.”

NFL rumors: Antonio Brown's quest to wear preferred helmet hits a snag

NFL rumors: Antonio Brown's quest to wear preferred helmet hits a snag

Antonio Brown’s camp thought the superstar receiver’s quest to wear his preferred helmet was nearing its end.

Not so fast, apparently.

Brown wants to wear a Schutt Air Advantage helmet, a version of headgear he has worn, in one model or another, since high school. It has been discontinued and is more than 10 years old, making it ineligible for certification.

Brown was told he could use the Schutt Air Advantage if he could find one made less than 10 years ago. He would then have to get it re-conditioned and re-certified.

The star Raiders receiver crowd sourced his helmet search, and found some that were made more recently.

The NFL tested a helmet made in 2010 that Brown’s camp submitted and, according to Pro Football Talk, the helmet failed the test. Brown was reportedly told of the failure on Saturday. Brown also has one from 2014 that was certified by an independent body, but it has not yet been recently tested by the NFL.

PFT also reports that Brown will continue his quest to wear the helmet he prefers.

The receiver, who squashed all talk of retirement over this helmet issue, said Thursday night that he would work within the system to get a helmet that works for him.

[RELATED: Brown shows great retention during practice]

“I’m still trying helmets right now,” Brown said after the Raiders beat Arizona in their preseason game. “As long as the league certifies them, those are the ones I’m trying out. I’m trying out every one I have. There have been a lot of great fans sending helmets. I’m just following protocol, man. I’m just excited to be back. You’ll be seeing a lot of me here shortly. I’m just excited to be around my teammates in the building and reached the shared goals we’re here to achieve.”

Derek Carr, Raiders' frontline starters might be done playing in preseason

Derek Carr, Raiders' frontline starters might be done playing in preseason

NAPA – Derek Carr has said he doesn’t need much preseason work to prepare for games that actually count.

That’s a plus for the Raiders quarterback. One drive might be all he gets.

Head coach Jon Gruden said his surefire starters might be done playing in the preseason, even with two exhibitions left.

The preseason finale’s never played by major contributors. The third preseason game often represents the most extensive action starters see, but that might not be the case Thursday against the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg at IG Field. The venue has artificial turf, and houses a CFL team and a professional soccer club, with both franchises currently in season.

“We’re looking into the surface that we’re playing on, and we’re not sure how much we’re going to play our starters,” Gruden said on Saturday. “We don’t have 22 starters in ink yet, either. There are going to be guys vying to become starters, but some of the frontline guys will be very limited in the next two weeks.”

That includes Carr, running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Antonio Brown, just returning after suffering frostbite on his feet. The starting Raiders offense was efficient in Thursday’s win over Arizona, quickly scoring a touchdown on its only drive. The top defense played four series and shut the Cardinals down, getting in quality work as a unit.

If the playing surface in Winnipeg is a cause for concern, expect Gruden to play it safe with his roster’s best.

Preserving health in the preseason was underscored by Friday news that the Chargers lost Derwin James for at least three months. The Raiders already are without right guard Gabe Jackson for the season’s first quarter at least. They don’t want to put any other big names at unnecessary risk.

There’s logic behind shutting Richie Incognito down in games, and backing him off some in first-team work. He has to serve a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and the Raiders will start preparing his replacements for early-season action.

“We’ve seen him enough,” Gruden said. “He’s played enough football. I don’t think we need to see him pull on power anymore. I think he’s good.”

[RELATED: What has impressed Carr most about Raiders rookie Jaocbs]

Jonathan Cooper’s the front runner to play left guard at this stage, though Denzelle Good (back) came off the physically unable to perform list Saturday and will challenge Cooper if he can get ramped up over the preseason’s final few weeks.

“We’re going to ease him back in,” Gruden said. “That’s huge for us. With Gabe injury and Richie’s situation, it’s good to have Denzelle close to returning.”