The Mercury News

Raiders rookie safety Joseph making his mark pressuring QB

- By Jerry McDonald jmcdonald@bayareanew­

ALAMEDA — The sec- ond installmen­t of the Karl Joseph plan included a new wrinkle — turning their 5foot-10, 207-pound safety into a pass rusher.

On Baltimore’s final drive, which ended on downs short of field-goal range, Joseph blitzed quarterbac­k Joe Flacco on three consecutiv­e plays and estimates he blitzed two or three more times throughout the course of the game.

“I mean, that’s one of the reasons they drafted me,” Joseph said Tuesday. “I showed in college I’m a very good blitzer, so it was fun to do that, kind of let me loose a little bit and go after the quarterbac­k.”

On all three blitzes with the Ravens at the 50-yard line and needing about 15 yards for a field-goal attempt, Flacco threw incomplete passes. Part of the reason was Joseph’s unexpected pressure.

For longtime Raiders watchers, seeing Joseph rushing the passer is an unexpected treat.

Blitzing was frowned upon during the Al Davis years, especially from safeties, with a directive that a single-high safety always be in place.

It remains to be seen how much the Raiders will blitz with Joseph. Certainly it was a more viable tactic with Flacco struggling with his mobility than the week before when the opponent was the more mobile Marcus Mariota.

The Raiders’ opposing quarterbac­k Sunday is Philip Rivers of San Diego, who isn’t particular­ly mobile but can unload the ball quickly and is adept at beating a blitz.

Rivers got an eyeful of the Raiders blitzing tactics against Baltimore, and Joseph is hoping for a chance to actually finish a pass rush by getting the quarterbac­k on the ground instead of simply forcing an incompleti­on.

“I’m kind of mad at myself that I came pretty close to getting a sack, but I’ve got to work on my timing,” Joseph said. “Got to continue to work on that and continue to grow. In a situation like that, to call my name on a blitz, it felt good. I just hope they keep that confidence in me and keep giving me opportunit­ies.”

Joseph said the Raiders had worked on the safety blitz all week with the expectatio­n that it would come free.

Before the final series, Joseph said there was no indication he’d be blitzing on every down.

“It was just one play after the next, they kept calling the same play and I was thinking, ‘All I have to do is go get the quarterbac­k,’ ” Joseph said. “Any time you hear your name called for blitzing, it’s a good thing.”

Overall, Joseph, who led the Raiders in tackles in his first start against Tennessee with 10, was second to teammate Cory James against Baltimore with eight.

“I felt so much better, so much more confident,” Joseph said. “I was much more relaxed out there. Everything wasn’t moving as fast. I still have a lot of room for improvemen­t. I felt like I still left a lot of plays out there on the field, plays that can make the difference. I’ve got to make those.”

Perry Riley, a six-year n veteran of 79 games and 63 starts with Washington, was signed to the 53-man roster, and Ben Heeney was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

Riley (6-foot, 240 pounds) was a starting inside linebacker for Washington from 2012 through the first nine games of last season until he was sidelined by a broken foot in November, with a second surgery required in February.

If Malcolm Smith can’t play because of a groin injury, Riley could be suited up Sunday against San Diego.

Scouting reports indicate Riley is strong against the run. He has 63 career starts in 79 games with 455 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, three intercepti­ons and two forced fumbles.

“If you ask me, I can do everything. Cover, tackle, play the run and pass,” Riley said. “I’m a physical player, I come downhill, taking on blocks, making plays in the gap, the backfield, whatever. I think a lot of people underestim­ate my athleticis­m or speed outside in pass coverage.”

Riley grew up a childhood friend of Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin. Both went to Stephenson High School in Atlanta before Riley went to LSU and Irvin to West Virginia.

Linebacker James n Cowser, who was waived/ injured and left the organizati­on with an injury settlement, was signed to the practice squad.

Demetrius Cherry was released from the practice squad, along with linebacker Darnell Sankey.

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