Raiders

Why Karl Joseph remains undeterred in quest to be 'Raider for life'

josephusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Why Karl Joseph remains undeterred in quest to be 'Raider for life'

ALAMEDA – The Raiders had an option to secure Karl Joseph’s services for the 2020 season at a relatively reasonable rate. They didn’t take it.

Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, one all teams have on all first-round picks.

That news came shortly after the Raiders drafted a fellow hard-hitting safety in the first round.

That 1-2 punch might have fazed Joseph some, but it didn’t knock him down. The 2016 first-round pick remains as aggressive and confident as ever in a quest to be a Raider long-term.

“Obviously I want to be here, I’ve expressed that already with Coach Gruden and Mr. Mayock,” Joseph said. “I want to be a Raider for life, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of my business on the field. I’m not focused on the contract. That stuff will take care of itself.”

The glass-half-full approach to these circumstances is the prospect of reaching unrestricted free agency sooner, and possibly parlay a breakout year into a big payday here, as preferred, or somewhere else.

“I think he’s responded to the situation great,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He knows this will be a good year for him to go out and play good and make us give him a contract. That’s the way the NFL is. That’s the way it is for me. It’s the way it is for a lot of the other guys. If you don’t perform, you’re probably looking for somewhere else to go and if you do perform, you’re going to get rewarded.”

Joseph’s motivation is obviously sky high, hoping to reach vast potential and build off a later 2018 stretch where he was playing his best in a wild-card role roaming all over the field.

A major role remains in play for Joseph, despite adding Johnathan Abram with the No. 27 overall pick. The pair share a skill set, as physical, aggressive enforcers who can play the run and pass.

At first glance, it would seem the Raiders must pick one or the other, but safeties can be interchangeable in this system and Joseph and Abram have been the first-unit safeties in later OTAs and in a mandatory minicamp that runs through Thursday.

Lamarcus Joyner has significant experience at free safety -- the L.A. Rams played there the last two seasons -- he has focused primarily on the slot cornerback spot. That leaves two open spots at safety, with Erik Harris as the No. 3 guy there capable and ready to start if called upon.

Joseph wasn’t ready to do that last year. He was the fourth safety option to start the 2018 season, behind Reggie Nelson, Marcus Gilchrist and Harris. He was slower to run Paul Guenther’s defensive system quickly, got hurt in Week 3 and then was on the trade block around midseason.

He responded well from that and played some of his best football down the stretch. He had two sacks, an interception and just a 73.6 passer rating when targeted over a run of eight straight starts.

“I think it was a combination of everything – me being more comfortable in the system towards the end of the season, me being confident in myself,” Joseph said. “…But for me, I don’t think I’ve reached (my full potential), I’m far off. I still feel like I have a long way to go. That’s why I say I keep getting better every single day, every practice, training camp. I’m expecting a lot more out of myself this year.”

[RELATED: Raiders chosen as next subject of HBO's 'Hard Knocks']

Joseph is not going about his business selfishly, though that might be understandable with his fifth-year option laid fallow and a big contract as his primary motivation.

Instead, he has committed to getting his next contract with the Raiders, developed a brotherly bond with Abram and started becoming a leader in the secondary entering his fourth season.

“I think it’s important,” Joseph said. “I know what it was like being a rookie, so I try to invite those guys over, have a little fun, barbecue and stuff like that. For me, it’s just about getting better every day. Be a leader by the way that I come in every day with my attitude and my work ethic, something they can see like, ‘Okay, he’s working extra hard. He’s doing the little extra stuff.’ I’m trying to lead by example.”

Chris Simms impressed with Raiders, who have been 'kicking some butt'

Chris Simms impressed with Raiders, who have been 'kicking some butt'

If you're impressed by the Raiders' recent turnaround, you're definitely not alone.

NBC Sports' Chris Simms is at a loss for words when it comes to describing what Oakland has accomplished after what only can be described as a hellish start to the season.

"Wow. I mean, I can't really say enough right now about what I've seen from the Oakland Raiders," Simms told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. "My old coach, Jon Gruden, has been kicking some butt, and I'm not saying that because he's my old coach. Trust me, I've talked crap about him before when he hasn't been good. I just think the way he is managing the football game right now is phenomenal."

Simms believes part of the 3-2 Raiders' recent surge can be attributed to Gruden putting his players in the right position to succeed.

"[The team] is playing extremely hard and physical on both sides of the football, but he's managing the offense the right way and managing it in a way that is giving it realistic expectations," Simms continued. "[He's] not asking it to do things that some of the players have not been able to do, and it's playing to their strengths. 

"They're running the football. [The offense is] playing smash-mouth football. When they drop back to pass, it's high-percentage passes. Let's take care of the football that way. And then when they look to strike deep or something like that, it's usually through a play-action pass or something Jon Gruden has designed in the chemistry lab in the week before through his film study."

The Raiders' consecutive wins over the Colts and Bears, in particular, really caught Simms' eye.

"I just really can't say enough about the Raiders and what they're doing right now," he said. "Those were two surprise victories for me, and they did it in a physical way."

[RELATED: Could Raiders be AFC West favorites after Mahomes injury?]

If the Raiders keep playing like they have the last two weeks, only more praise will follow.

How Patrick Mahomes injury could change outlook for Raiders, AFC West

mahomesinjuryap.jpg
AP

How Patrick Mahomes injury could change outlook for Raiders, AFC West

The AFC West might have just become even more wide open.

It already was heading in that direction after Kansas City lost each of their last two games, but the Chiefs might have suffered an even worse loss Thursday night when quarterback Patrick Mahomes left their game against the Broncos with an apparent leg injury.

Mahomes was in obvious pain after emerging from a pile following a fourth-down sneak. He was able to walk to the locker room, but was ruled out for the rest of the game shortly thereafter.

If Mahomes' injury is as serious as it appears, it would have a drastic effect on the AFC West race. The Raiders (3-2) have put themselves back in contention after winning their last two games over the Colts and Bears. While Kansas City's Matt Moore is a competent backup quarterback, he's nowhere near the same kind of player as the 2018 NFL MVP.

A Chiefs loss to the Broncos combined with a Raiders win over the Packers would leave Oakland all alone in first place in the division. Safe to say, nobody expected that to be a possibility in Week 7.

[RELATED: Green Bay HS legend Ingold ready for homecoming vs. Pack]

The Chiefs, Raiders and the rest of the NFL wait with bated breath for more information about Mahomes' injury.