NAPA, Calif. — They entered the NFL in 2016.
Cornerback Daryl Worley was the Carolina Panthers’ third-round pick. Safety Karl Joseph was the Raiders’ first-round choice. Their arrivals marked the first time in West Virginia program history that two defensive backs were selected during the first three rounds of the same draft.
They hoped to dominate apart.
They’ll try now together.
Worley and Joseph were reunited this offseason, a chance Worley says they look to embrace. It’s also one that perhaps ideally would have been avoided, as Worley was tradedin March from the Panthers to the Philadelphia Eagles, who waived him after an April arrest. Joseph vouched for Worley before the team signed his former teammate about a week later.
Coach Jon Gruden approached Joseph for the character reference.
“I knew he could come in and help us at that position,” Joseph said of Worley in June. “We need some help in that position, so when he asked me about him, I was excited. That’s my brother. We played almost all of our years in college together. So when he asked me, I co-signed for him immediately. He’s a heck of a player.”
Worley has embraced the chance.
He was one of four veteran cornerbacks the Raiders signed in March or April to a one-year contract worth the league minimum. One of them, Senquez Golson, was cut in June. The other three — Leon Hall, Sharece Wright and Worley — are competing for a roster spot. Worley already seems to have staked his claim.
The 23-year-old received first-team reps in June when starting cornerback Gareon Conley had a groin injury. Last Friday, Conley left practice with a hip strain, which is expected to cost him two weeks. Again, Worley has worked in his place.
Meanwhile, Joseph is engaged in his own competition.
The Raiders re-signed Reggie Nelson and added Marcus Gilchrist at safety. Those three are part of a rotation, while Erik Harris, a core special teamer in 2017, has impressed Gruden and pushed for consideration. Harris is expected to see fewer reps in the coming days as he deals with a finger injury he suffered during Wednesday’s practice.
The team hopes Joseph can seize a starting job. He has yet to develop into the impact player it envisioned.
Perhaps, he and Worley can find their stride.
“That’s definitely a thing that we talk about,” Worley said. “It’s definitely time to take it to the next level. With us both being in our third year, we know it’s time to elevate our game, the same exact way we did in college. We always push each other, whether it’s on the field or off the field. We have little talks, and whether it’s said or not said, we’re always competing with the other to make plays.”
Said Joseph: “I know there’s a lot of plays that I missed that I wish I could get back. Going into my third year, I have very high expectations for myself. I definitely have to elevate my game. I have to be the player they drafted me to be. I put that on myself. … I just have to keep growing and learning from some of the older guys like Reggie, Leon and Marcus.”
With an old friend at his side.