Cory James, Karl Joseph and the Defense
The Raiders defense has also stepped up the past two weeks. That has been due in large part to inserting rookies Karl Joseph and Cory James into the lineup.
James and Joseph are 1-2 on the team in tackles the past two games, and both play fast, instinctively, and with a hard edge. Despite being only 6’0″ and 229 pounds, James easily sheds much bigger lineman and doesn’t miss tackles. He had 15 tackles Sunday (12 solo) without a single miss.
James’ play thus far can be summed up by defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who knows a thing or two about great defenders from his time in Seattle.
Indeed he has been. Joseph as well, but as a first-round pick it was somewhat expected. James, a sixth-round pick who is traditionally undersized, has been a bit more of a surprise. Del Rio loves the kid though.
"“Very productive,” he said of James. “We had him for 16 total tackles in the game. I think 12 of them were solo tackles. He finds the ball. I mean, he’s around the ball, he played well. He’s a good football player. For his second game starting, I thought he showed growth and I think he’ll continue to do that.”"
For more on James, see new JBB staff writer Maliik Obee’s debut article here. Good read.
The entire defense showed growth, coming up big in crucial moments, none bigger than Reggie Nelson’s pop of receiver Kamar Aiken to loosen the ball and end the game. Despite some early season struggles, that’s what this unit expects of themselves.
"“There was really no pressure,” said cornerback Sean Smith. “We have a defense full of playmakers. We actually love those situations when the clock is ticking and they’re just trying to get a field goal to win. You might feel pressure on the outside, but for us, it’s just us doing our job. If you don’t love those situations, you can’t play on this defense.”"
That’s an attitude that’s been lacking in Oakland for some time, that killer instinct. As this defense gels more each week, they are supporting each other more and making less mistakes. They are relishing the chance to support the offense.
They are gaining some swagger — as is this whole team.