By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 11:57 am in Oakland Raiders.
ALAMEDA – Taiwan Jones is working at running back in practice Wednesday for the first time since last season.
Jones, a Deer Valley High School graduate, entered the league in 2011 as a running back, but coach Dennis Allen converted Jones to cornerback after last season.
The bulk of Jones’ game action the past two seasons came as a special teams ace.
He is considered by some to have the best shot at making the Pro Bowl among Raiders players this season based on his penchant for making big plays on kick-off and punt coverage.
It’s likely that Jones is back at running back for now as a result of recent injuries to running backs Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart.
Jennings is at practice today, but he is fresh from a game in which he suffered a concussion. He won’t be cleared to play Sunday against the New York Jets until he passes a series of league-mandated tests for players that suffer a concussion.
McFadden and Stewart missed practice Wednesday. Stewart injured a knee and an ankle against the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday.
McFadden carried the ball five times for 13 against the Cowboys in his first game back since he hurt a hamstring Nov. 3. He has played in only eight games this season, with 103 carries for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
Jones rushed 22 times for 94 yards his first two seasons. His lone rush this season came on a fake punt.
McFadden is in the final season of the six-year contract he signed with the Raiders in 2008, when he was selected with the fourth pick of the NFL draft out of Arkansas.
He has failed to live up to lofty expectations during his six-year career. He averaged 3.3 yards last season. Jennings rushed for 448 yards in the past five games in place of McFadden as the lead back.
Allen has made it clear that Jennings still is going to get his “touches,” even when McFadden is healthy, based on how well Jennings has played. It remains to be seen whether Allen will use Jones at running back in a game this season.
– In other news, wide receiver Denarius Moore (shoulder), right guard Mike Brisiel (knee) and safety Usama Young (neck) also aren’t practicing today.
Brisiel is on the field, but he is just watching. Lucas Nix is working at Brisiel’s right guard spot in the early portion of practice. Nix has played mostly left guard this season.
– Strong safety Tyvon Branch is practicing today for the first time since he suffered an ankle injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars more than 2 1/2 months ago.
Branch missed the past 10 games while he recovered from his injury. It’s conceivable that he will be healthy enough to play against the Jets.
Allen said he didn’t envision Branch needing much practice time before playing in a game once he returned to the field.
Brandian Ross and Young have filled in for Branch since Sept. 15, when Branch got injured.