Reggie McKenzie has made many impressive moves this past offseason to improve his veteran leadership, experience and discipline. One move that flew under the radar in my opinion is the three-year extension signing of Taiwan Jones.
Jones is heading into is fourth preseason camp with Oakland, but this year things are much different for him.
Raiders defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, noticed Jones was a much more versatile football player then they had originally thought. His quick feet and all around instinctive ability to find the ball led Tarver to move Jones from running back to cornerback in the middle of last season.
Jones didn’t fight the position switch because he just wanted to help the team in any way he could, even if that meant switching to defensive back. He ended up coming off the bench a fair amount during the 2013 season on the defensive side of the ball. Jones ended up recording 12 tackles and 1 forced fumble, but where he really stood out was on special teams.
After Oakland signed 2011 rushing leader, Maurice Jones-Drew, to the Raiders’ backfield, there would be no need for Jones to move back to running back to assist Darren McFadden. However, Reggie McKenzie spoke with Tarver and special teams coordinator Bobby April to see if Jones was worth keeping around.
Both Tarver and April agreed his potential and attitude are extremely positive. April even pointed out that Jones went on to lead the special teams with 14 tackles. This is what led to the decision to extend Jones’ contract for three years.
Defensive coordinator, Tarver believes Jones has potential to start as a cornerback along with San Francisco NFC Champion, Carlos Rogers. Tarver said that because of Jones’ rigorous work ethic and his positive outlook on helping the team wherever he can.
Jones went on to say in an interview with Raiders reporter Eddie Paskal that things have been much different for him this pre-season with the addition of the veteran defensive players. Jones went on to say “There’s a lot of guys staying and doing extra; putting in extra work and watching extra film,” he said. “Doing the things that they don’t have to do, but things that you expect from a championship team.”
Jones has great potential and attitude to help the Raiders make positive steps to becoming at least contenders in their very difficult AFC West division. What stands out to me about Jones is what seems like his ability to feed off the veteran leadership. And now the Oakland Raiders have acquired the veteran leadership capable of helping guys like Jones succeed. It is clear that Jones wants be the best player he can even if that means the best player on Oakland’s special teams.
He will be competing with last season’s cornerback, D.J. Hayden who recorded 25 defensive tackles, which is average at best. Although Jones had a below average defensive season last year, I think this year he has proved things are much different. Jones has been working much harder to learn what it means to be a successful cornerback and I think he will be the guy to watch this pre-season for the Oakland Raiders.