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Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph hasn’t had this week and Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals circled on his calendar as some of us think.
If you know Joseph a little then you know that’s just not him.
Joseph may have a range of emotions as he emerges from the tunnel at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, but none of it will have to do with any animosity revenge factor against the team he spent the first seasons of his career with before receiving an incredible free agent deal from Texans last summer.
Honestly, Joseph says he doesn’t know how he will feel Sunday standing across the sideline from guys he had gone to battle with for five seasons and built a bond with.
“[It’s] My first time in a situation like this,” Joseph said this week. “I’m sure I’m probably well-liked there in Cincinnati; I didn’t do anything for anyone to dislike me, other than probably coming to Houston, but for me, like I said, it’s just going to be about the Houston Texans going to play the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Is it ever really that simple when you come up against your old team and your old coach? Joseph insists it is.
“I’m not really caught up into the hype of just me going back to Cincinnati or anything like that just because, me, I just want to go out and just play football and just have fun at the end of the day,” he said.
But if you are going to leave and come back, you want to do it the say Joseph is doing it. Not only did he get paid by the Texans during the offseason – five years, $48.75 million with $23.5 million guaranteed – but even bigger he returns to the Nnati with a team that great improved and competing for a playoff spot and Joseph has played a major role in that.
Joseph has been every bit of the shutdown cornerback defensive coordinator Wade Phillips thought he would be when he strongly advised Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith to take a look at him in free agency. It’s not a coincidence that since Joseph and safety Danieal Manning arrived that the Texans have gone from 30th in the NFL in total defense to No.2 this week.
The duo has added some play-making ability on the backend that has made opposing quarterbacks have to think twice before launching deep prayers down field.
But even more important has been the confidence and leadership Joseph and Manning have brought to the area that was by far the weakest last season. That has been no more evident than with the impact Joseph has had on second-year corner Kareem Jackson, who was a mess last season.
The two have become like brothers. Joseph has been careful not to be too overbearing with advice. He uses a combination of words and leadership by example by showing the youngster how veterans in this league go about their business.
“He’s been everything we thought he would be and more,” Kubiak said of Joseph. “The thing I’ve been so impressed with, we knew he was a great player, but the leadership he’s brought to this team, the stability with all those young guys back there.”
But for Joseph, who is having an All-Pro season, the teaching has been a two-way street. He has been willing to learn from Jackson, as well. How is that for leadership?
“I talk to him just about little things, and as funny as it may sound, he tells me some different things that can help me as well,” said Joseph, who has 35 tackles on the season that includes two stops for loss, a forced fumble and he also has four interceptions. “For me, it’s just about footwork, hand placement, just recognizing things so you can be a player that plays just that much quicker. Instead of seeing and reacting, you kind of have a feeling or you know already.”
That knowledge could come in handy Sunday when he faces a Bengals offense that is much different from the one he faced every day in practice. Gone are quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Rookie and native Houstonian Andy Dalton has taken over at quarterback and rookie receiver A.J. Green has been everything the Bengals had hoped when they drafted him last spring. It’s a safe bet Joseph will get plenty of exposure to both youngsters Sunday.
The 5-foot-11 Joseph will undoubtedly draw the 6-foot-4 Green at times, which should make for an interesting matchup. But the veteran wasn’t showing his hand earlier in the week when asked about potentially covering Green.
“It’s still up in the air right now how we want to handle things defensively,” Joseph said, “so for me, it’s just about going out and just executing the game plan, however it may be finalized at the end of the week.”
But when the opportunity does come for Joseph to lineup on the much taller Green he realizes he will have to be smart.
“You just want to go out and play sound technique,” he said. “You don’t want to gamble any because gambling gets you beat in this league, so like I said, you want to go and take the things that we do from the practice field to the game field.
“Obviously, he’s a great talent. They selected him top-10 overall, and he’s been living up to that bill ever since the moment he stepped in that building, from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen on film.”
Now let’s see how Joseph handles things when he steps back into the building he once called home on Sunday.