This Cowboys CB needs to step up in the second half of the season

Kelvin Joseph, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Kelvin Joseph, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

As the Dallas Cowboys enter their bye week at 6-2, it’s hard to be too upset with the way the team has performed through the opening half of the season. They’ve dealt with their fair share of big injuries and setbacks. Yet, through it all, the Cowboys have remained resilient and genuinely embraced the next-man-up philosophy.

However, there is one player who will need to step up but hasn’t yet. That’s former second-round pick, Kelvin Joseph.

When the Cowboys selected cornerback Kelvin Joseph with the 44th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, expectations were understandably high. Joseph showed great ball skills at both Kentucky and LSU, and his lofty draft pedigree indicated how much confidence the Cowboys had in him to be a contributor sooner rather than later.

Joseph frequently flashed ball-hawking ability in college and the hope was that he would combine forces with Trevon Diggs to give Dallas two shutdown corners on the outside. However, so far, Joseph hasn’t held up his end of that bargain at all.

Eighteen games at the professional level are hardly a large enough sample size to definitively label a player as a bust. However, it’s pretty safe to say at this point that Joseph hasn’t had the start to his career that neither he nor the Cowboys would have liked.

In a rookie season largely overshadowed by injury, Joseph played in 10 games, starting just two and failing to record an interception or make a meaningful impression. He was looking to get back on track in his sophomore season. But, after an offseason dominated by off-the-field controversy, it just hasn’t happened yet.

So far in 2022, Joseph has largely been relegated to special teams, playing just 3% of the team’s defensive snaps, compared to 83% of the Cowboys’ special teams snaps. Joseph has been solid on special teams, but he’s struggled to carve out anything close to resembling a consistent role on Dallas’ defense. There have been four games this season where Joseph has even failed to get on the field for a single defensive snap.

Jourdan Lewis’ injury gives Cowboys defensive back Kelvin Joseph a prime opportunity to step up where he hasn’t

After Jourdan Lewis suffered a season-ending injury against the Detroit Lions, head coach Mike McCarthy said that 2022 fifth-round pick DaRon Bland was selected to take over Lewis’ snaps. However, he also made it clear that Joseph and 2021 third-round pick Nashon Wright would also see more time on defense.

Against the Chicago Bears, there weren’t any real surprises. Bland played the bulk of what would have been Lewis’ snaps, and Joseph saw the field sparingly. In Joseph’s brief action on Sunday, he made the wrong kind of highlight, getting beat by Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry for an easy touchdown.

The rookie, Bland, however, deserves a lot of credit here. He’s earned his spot on this roster and his chance to be the next man up. He’s been very good in his limited action, but it’s still a scathing indictment of Joseph that despite the fact that the Cowboys spent a premium pick on him just one year ago, he can’t beat out a fifth-round rookie for playing time.

Special teams contributors are absolutely crucial to successful football teams. I am not undermining or disputing that at all.  That said, typically when a team spends a second-round pick on a defensive back with big play ability, they expect them to start sooner rather than later, not be relegated to punt protection.

Whether he’s ready for it or not, Joseph will need to play some defense for the Cowboys down the stretch. Maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s what’s going to happen and he needs to be ready.

Dallas’ bye week comes at a time that should help them get Joseph more practice reps and further integrate him into the team’s defensive plans. When the Cowboys return to action in Week 10, they will do so against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Then, the following week, they travel to Minnesota to play the pass-happy Vikings.

As it stands right now. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is currently among the NFL’s top 10 in passing attempts, completions, and touchdowns.

When Joseph does eventually get his chance in-game, he will need to make the most of it. Yes, Joseph has been a solid special teams contributor this season, but the Cowboys are going to need him to finally be more than that, especially with Lewis being out.

As the season goes on and the Cowboys continue their playoff push against some aggressive offenses, they are going to need Joseph to step up and fight for the role he was drafted to fill. There is still time for him to turn things around and salvage what could be a very promising career, but he needs to start now.