ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - First-round draft pick Karl Joseph’s debut on defense is coming three weeks later than he had hoped and maybe a few weeks earlier than the Raiders planned.
With Oakland’s pass defense still stinging after back-to-back thumpings by Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, coach Jack Del Rio is open to seeing what Joseph can do.
“I’m excited to see him play,” Del Rio said Friday. “I know he’s excited to get a chance to play. We plan on playing him. He’s had a really good week of practice. I feel like we’ve had a good solid week of preparation and we’re excited to go play.”
Joseph has not played at all on defense this season. His 16 plays of experience have come on special teams, a notable change from the preseason and in training camp when the 14th-overall pick in this year’s draft lined up with the starters.
Keith McGill, a converted cornerback who was buried on the depth chart, was the surprising starter in Oakland’s season-opening win over New Orleans and against last week in the home loss to Atlanta.
Although Del Rio declined to say who would start against the Titans, Joseph and McGill split reps at practice this week in anticipation of both playing.
“My mindset is just to stay ready,” Joseph said this week. “I’m just going to stay ready so whenever I make my opportunity, I’m going to make the best of it. I’m hungry. I want to be out there. It hurt me to not be out there.”
Del Rio, who earlier this week sounded regretful for not having played Joseph on defense against the Falcons, said the first-round pick benefited from being on the sidelines through the first two games.
“(It) gave him a chance to see from that perspective and grow as a young player, maybe catch up on some of the time that we didn’t have during the offseason when he wasn’t able to go as much,” Del Rio said. “What I’m most impressed with is his attitude has been great. He works hard. He’s conscientious. He’s got some explosive abilities as a football player. I feel good about the way he’s preparing.”
The Raiders head into Sunday’s game against the Titans with the top-ranked offense. Oakland is also third in scoring, fourth in red zone efficiency and third in rushing.
Yet much of that has gotten overlooked because of the problems the team has had defensively , something Del Rio hopes to change by shaking up the defense.
The Raiders are also expected to start sixth-round draft pick Cory James at middle linebacker in place of Ben Heeney.
Notes: Backup offensive lineman Austin Howard (ankle) remained out of practice and will not play in Tennessee. Backup right tackle Matt McCants (knee) is also out. . Cornerback David Amerson (concussion), center Rodney Hudson (knee), right guard Gabe Jackson (knee), kick returner Taiwan Jones (knee), defensive tackle Darius Latham (concussion) and defensive lineman Jihad Ward (hip) are all probable.
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