NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Taiwan Jones' NFL career got off to a slow start when a variety of injuries and the inability to hold onto the ball kept him off the field for much of his first two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Now the former running back with sprinter's speed is getting a second chance at establishing himself as an NFL player following a position switch to cornerback.
While his coverage skills are still a bit raw after not playing cornerback since his freshman year at Eastern Washington, Jones still has that blazing speed that tantalized the Raiders those last two years. Combined with his stellar coverage skills
on special teams, Jones is making a strong bid to make the team at a second position.
“I'm still just happy to be on the roster,” Jones said. “Whatever I can do to help the team and if I can help the team on defense then I'm willing to do it. I was kind of upset that I couldn't show everybody what kind of running back I could be,
but I think it's a good thing as far as my career.”
Jones was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round in 2011 after rushing for 2,955 yards and 7.7 yards per carry and scoring 36 touchdowns in two seasons as a running back at Eastern Washington.
Those gaudy statistics, a 4.33 second 40-yard dash before the draft and the fact Jones is a Bay Area native made him a fan favorite but it never translated to success on the field.
A variety of minor injuries and a propensity to fumble in the preseason made it hard for Jones to earn the trust of his coaches. He had 22 rushes for 94 yards, four catches for 36 yards and 10 kick returns for 187 yards in 24 games and never made it
into the end zone.
That led to the position switch in the offseason and the Raiders are hoping Jones proves better at preventing touchdowns than he did at scoring them.
He hasn't quite gotten to that point yet despite allowing just three catches on seven throws his direction so far in the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. But he also committed a long pass interference penalty.