Joseph lets his play do the talking

William Joseph is a man of very few words – and up to this point in his career, very few plays as well.

Joseph, a third-year former first-round pick, has made one thing clear so far – he has no interest in speaking with the media.

"You know I don't talk, man," was all Joseph said when approached for an interview. "I'm a mute."

The Giants are hoping that his play on the field this season speaks volumes. Joseph, though a strong training camp and preseason, has earned the starting job at right defensive tackle.

"He's doing a much better job this year," linebacker Carlos Emmons said. "He's getting off the ball. Coaches are praising him after every practice and in every meeting. We've seen from him exactly what we need to see from him and hopefully it will translate into the games."

Through his first two seasons after the Giants made him the 25th overall selection in the 2003 Draft, Joseph had started only four games, all last season when injuries forced him into the lineup. His claim to fame came last year in Green Bay, when he knocked Packers QB Brett Favre out of the lineup with a concussion after delivering a vicious, but clean, hit.

He would show flashes and bursts, but no consistent ability.

Prior to camp's opening, defensive coordinator Tim Lewis didn't exactly give Joseph a ringing endorsement.

"The bottom line is he's got a lot of ability, a lot of tools; he's got to do it on a consistent basis," Lewis said.

Many of Joseph's mates say that his coach-ability and new attitude are to credit for his obvious improvement.

"The scheme fits him well and he's made some adjustments himself to make the scheme fit him well," safety Shaun Williams said. "He's doing what the coaches have been asking of him, and that's a big part of it. He came in with the focus of listening to the coaches and giving them what they want. That's what he's doing now."

"He's made a lot of progress," Osi Umenyiora added. "He's looking real good and he's real explosive at the snap. He's doing exactly what they're asking him to do right now – he's holding onto the double team, he's doing a lot of good things."

One area in which Joseph has been consistent is his dealings with the media, often mumbling, "I'm good" in response to interview requests. More than one teammate has stepped in for Joseph when approached by reporters and blamed the media's coverage of the 6-5, 315-pounder for his silence.

After starting all 47 games at DT at the University of Miami and earning all Big-East conference honors as a senior, Joseph's production on the pro level was so minimal that he was already being tagged with the dreaded ‘bust' label. In fact, yours truly isn't too embarrassed to admit that TGI predicted the former Hurricane wouldn't even make it out of training camp this summer.

Newcomer Kendrick Clancy, the other starting DT, heard the talk before he arrived in New York.

"He's been working hard," Clancy said. "I think he's going to be all right. He's not what I heard he was. I heard some different things, stuff I don't really want to repeat, but it wasn't positive stuff. He's much different than that.

"I don't see him as a bust, he's a very talented player. He held out his first year and he was injured last year, so you can't really label him a bust. This is really his first true chance. A bust? I don't see it."

Indeed, Joseph hasn't exactly been in the optimum position to succeed since joining Big Blue. He missed most of his rookie camp as a holdout and missed most of the '04 offseason with a torn pectoral muscle. This offseason, he opted to join Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress and worked out in Miami.

Known more thus far for his non-speaking ways than his play, Joseph's teammates say that he's just as quiet around them.

"He's a mild-mannered guy," Emmons said. "He'll talk sometimes, but he's not one of those guys that like the spotlight. He shies away from it."

"He's quiet, man," Umenyiora added. "He doesn't say anything. That's just William."

So Joseph is left to let his play do his talking. After beginning camp running with the second and third teams, he received a promotion and began taking Fred Robbins' reps. Joseph had a strong preseason, bursting right out of the gate with a strong first game in Cleveland. From there, he never looked back, locking down the starting spot so few thought he was capable of claiming.

"He's really excelled this offseason," Williams said. "He's doing a good job. He's doing what he has to do to be a top-notch player."

Now he just has to do it consistently.

Coach Tom Coughlin came to Joseph's defense earlier this summer in a briefing with the local media, saying that Joseph is no longer unreliable and is more conscious of his assignments and responsibilities than people realize.

Again, without Joseph to set us straight about what's going on, we have to rely on others.

"I can't wait to see him out there, because he's looking good," cornerback Will Allen said. "He's working hard. This is really the first year that he's had a whole training camp."

To a man, his mates seem thrilled that Joseph has put the bust label behind him and is ready to embark on his first season as a starter.

"He has the talent to be a dominant player," Emmons said. "As long as he continues progressing the way he is, he can achieve those goals."

"He's going to be a real good player," Umenyiora stated. "He has all the physical talent to be able to do it – he's big, he's strong, he has those really long arms – and now he understands how to play. He looks like a beast, man."

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