After selecting Kelvin Joseph at pick 44 in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t seen much from their rookie cornerback out of Kentucky. An early season injury and veteran-laden defensive backfield have held Joseph to just 14 defensive snaps prior to Sunday’s game against the Washington Football Team.
As a pro prospect Joseph possessed the kind of physical skills and natural feel you look for in a cornerback. But with only nine college starts to his name, Joseph came with the inevitable low-floor/high-ceiling label.
So when Dallas announced Joseph would be starting this week, many of us didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t have much college tape or pro tape to pull from, so unless you were watching him practice each week, reasonable assumptions couldn’t be made.
How did Kelvin Joseph play in his Dallas Cowboys starting debut? Pretty dang well…
The Dallas Cowboys obviously had faith in Joseph from the jump. Play No. 1 featured him manned up alone on the outside without safety help (Dallas in single high safety). And wouldn’t you know it? WFT went deep, only instead of targeting the Cowboys rookie who was just taking his 15th defensive snap as a pro, they went after Trevon Diggs in the NFL’s interception
As you can see in the tweet above, Kelvin more than held his own regardless. He showed excellent technique on the play and offered up nary an inch of separation.
Keep in mind, Kelvin was a surprise start in many regards. Playing primarily special teams this season, Kelvin skipped the typical intermediary steps and went straight to the starting lineup. It was a bold move from Dan Quinn who had to cover for the loss of Jourdan Lewis (who was just placed on the COVID-reserve list).
Quinn could have just as easily kept Anthony Brown outside (where he’s having a career year) and just replaced Lewis with the veteran Maurice Canady. He didn’t and it probably couldn’t have gone any better for the Dallas Cowboys.
Kelvin wasn’t just a sticky man corner, but he played well in zone and in run support. Multiple times he showed the ability to read the situation in coverage and put himself in the optimal position when more than one pass-catcher entered his zone. On the WFT’s first TD, Taylor Heinicke was looking Joseph’s way first before progressing down to the would-be TD pass in the flat on the opposite side.
One of my favorite things I found was Kelvin Joseph’s innate ability to navigate traffic. Whether it’s in run support or against bunch formations, Joseph seems to find a way to slip through unscathed and in position to make the play. It proves you don’t have to be powerful to be unblockable.
In all fairness, KJ wasn’t flawless in his starting debut. On the play below he found himself turned around and gave up a big “opportunity” down the boundary (luckily the ball didn’t go his way). He followed that play up, though, with excellent coverage on another deep route, giving up little separation and awareness for the safety over the top, making the window wonderfully minute.
In all this was an absolutely wonderful performance by the rookie Kelvin Joseph. The sample size was small (he only has 71 career defensive snaps) and the competition has been questionable, but the man known as Bossman looked like a budding star out there on Sunday.
It’s important the Dallas Cowboys keep giving Kelvin Joseph defensive snaps the rest of the season. He has special skills Lewis and Brown do not and could be a factor in the postseason. Additionally, Dallas needs to know what they have in him before the offseason because the draft should offer a few tantalizing CB prospects at Pick 32 (winky face) if the Cowboys are in the market.
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Kelvin Joseph gave up -2 yards on five targets but sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story. In this case, the film backs up Joseph’s great debut.