Lions rookie safety Kerby Joseph showing unteachable trait as he pushes for immediate role

Lions rookie safety Kerby Joseph could make an immediate push for a starting job, and having the ‘innate’ trait that he does will only help.

In need of a talent upgrade at safety, the Detroit Lions landed Kerby Joseph out of the University of Illinois in the third round (No. 97 overall) in April’s draft. Joseph started his college career as a wide receiver, but made a full transition to safety last season.

And quite a season it was for Joseph, as he posted 57 tackles, five interceptions, two fumble recovories and two pass breakups. He is a raw prospect as he enters the NFL, but there’s no denying his talent level.

If the season started today, DeShon Elliott would be the other starting safety for the Lions opposite Tracy Walker. But the job is absolutely open to competition, and Joseph is in that mix along with multiple others.

During OTAs, via SI.com, Lions safeties coach Brian Duker noted how Joseph has been performing beyond expectations. He went on to cite one particular uncoachable skill the rookie safety possesses.

Kerby Joseph has an “innate” ability that may give him an edge in Lions’ safety competition

Here’s what Duker said about Joseph.

The guy has an innate ability to get his hands on the ball,” Duker explained. “It shows up every day in practice. He gets his hands on the ball. That is as good of a trait as you could ask for out of a safety to start with. And then, we’ll kind of teach him the rest from there, but he’s going to get his head on the ball everyday. So, that’s been awesome.”

Duker was clear with a “we can teach him the rest” sentiment, while noting Joseph’s innate, instinctual ability to be around the ball as the starting point. That innate instinct is not something that can be taught.

Walker is a fine player, but he has struggled to generate takeaways. So an ideal safety pairing with him would include someone who is more of a ballhawk, like Joseph has shown he is in some small samples thus far.

So if Joseph looks like a starting-caliber safety between now and Week 1, as he refines his overall game, he could move from an expected core special teamer to a starter on defense right away as a rookie.