ALAMEDA – Taiwan Jones entered the NFL three years ago with visions of running away from defenders and dancing in the end zone after touchdowns.
Things haven’t quite panned out that way, but Jones is making the most of his role as a backup cornerback and key special teams player.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s one of the best special teams players in this league right now.”
Jones spent most of his time the past two seasons biding his time, waiting for his chance to show what he can do as a running back.
That chance never materialized, with Darren McFadden and others getting almost all the carries and Jones buried on the depth chart. He channeled his energy on special teams.
Jones also made it clear to Allen that he was willing to play anywhere, do anything to get on the field more, even if it meant a position change.
Hence, Allen converted Jones to cornerback, a position Jones played some in college.
Jones is making progress as a cornerback, but it’s special teams where he is making a name for himself as one of the best at sprinting downfield on punts and kick-offs and tackling returners before they realize they’re even in Jones’ sights.
“After making a tackle, that’s when I see the defense running on the field and they feel good about the field position,” Jones said. “That makes me want to work that much harder.”
Jones said his career hasn’t unfolded the way he imagined, but he’s plenty satisfied with the niche he has carved out.
Allen said Jones’ attitude is every bit as important in his success as is his superior speed.
“The first attribute for any special teams player is to understand the importance of it, and understand what that role is on the football team and how that can help this team win games,” Allen said. “Taiwan Jones loves to play football. He’s embraced that role.”
– Raiders special teams play is gaining plenty of recognition for its well-rounded play. Allen said he’s still waiting on the return game to get untracked.
Jacoby Ford’s longest kick return through six games netted 30 yards. On punt returns, 30 of the Raiders 96 yards came on one Phillip Adams return.
Ford said the time is coming when he and Adams are going to bust off long returns and ride that momentum the rest of the season.
“It’s one of those things where you just keep plugging away at it,” Ford said. “Eventually you break one. … As soon as you hit one, everything just starts clicking everywhere.”
– Allen limited practice Tuesday to young players and those in need of extra work as the Raiders head into their bye week.
That meant only 36 of the 61 players on the active and practice squad rosters participated in on-field drills. The 25 others got in some work in other capacities.
This represents a departure from last year, when all healthy players practiced before the bye week.
“It was important for the veteran players to get some time to really take care of their bodies and get themselves back healthy and ready to go for next week,” Allen said.
– Wide receiver Rod Streater said he and others appreciate quarterback Terrelle Pryor being accountable. At the same time, they make sure Pryor knows that not everything negative is his fault.
That’s easier said than done, though, given the way Pryor is wired, Streater added.
“It will bother him for a little bit,” Streater said, “but once he watches film and he sees exactly what he needs to correct he gets over it. But he’s a perfectionist so he’s going to want to work hard and make no mistakes.”
– The Raiders practice Wednesday, then the players are excused until Monday.
Allen said he wants his players to enjoy their down time, yet remain focused on the big picture.
“We’ve got to … understand that when we get back rolling, we’ve got to have our body and our mind ready for the stretch run of the season,” Allen said. “That will be critical for our success moving forward.”