There’s no other way of looking at it; 2018 was a down year for the Oakland Raiders defense. After being carried by the dominance of Khalil Mack for several seasons, the Raiders defense took a free fall last season. An anemic pass rush was mostly to blame, but the Raiders defense as a whole was not good.
However, there was at least one player that put together a solid season and that was third-year safety, Karl Joseph. According to Pro Football Focus, Joseph was the first Raider not named Khalil Mack to rank as the top defender on the team in the past five seasons. While his grade of 74.5 ranks him only the 23rd best safety in the league, it’s still notable that Joseph was able to put together a solid season when the rest of the defense couldn’t.
Rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was the only other defender to put together a solid campaign. He led the team with four sacks. Both Joseph and Hurst are looking to improve in 2019.
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The Contract Issue
Earlier this offseason, the Raiders turned some heads when they decided not to pick up the fifth year on Joseph’s rookie contract. While it doesn’t mean the end for Joseph, it’s certainly not a huge vote of confidence from the front office. Joseph has been seen taking first-team reps during OTAs so he’s still expected to be a starter at safety.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said that Joseph has responded well to the contract situation.
“This will be a good year for him to go out and play good and make us give him a contract,” said Guenther. “That’s the way the NFL is. It’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. To me, it’s business as usual.”
The 2019 season will be Joseph’s last chance to prove that he belongs with the silver and black. Even though he’s performed well, he still hasn’t proved that he’s worth a contract past 2019. The former West Virginia Mountaineer should have ample opportunity to improve this season. The Raiders have added talent all over the defense, so that should make Joseph’s job easier. If he can stay healthy, the Raiders will know what they have in Joseph and they can decide his future from there.