NAPA, Calif. – 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.
A variety of injuries and a propensity to fumble in the preseason made it hard for Jones to earn the trust of his coaches. 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.
Cornerback isn’t completely new for Jones, who was given a scholarship to play cornerback in college but made the switch to offense his second season. But his college coaches thought he’d be converted back to cornerback in the NFL and Jones was prepared for the switch when it happened.
Now he has two more preseason games to show he should stick there when the season starts.
“He’s as athletic as anybody you’ll ever see on the football field,” teammate Charles Woodson said. “It’s different from offense to defense and learning a new position and them expecting you to just be able to do it. He’s shown some great things but you don’t have a lot of time to get it right. With him if he had more time I’d feel like eventually he’d get it.”