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NAPA – Taiwan Jones made an excellent play on a receiver he wasn’t even covering. The Raiders cornerback saw Terrelle Pryor’s pass directed away from his path, so he stopped in an instant, dove back and rendered the ball incomplete.
It was a veteran move, a cagy breakup expected of a lifelong corner. Not bad for a novice.
Jones has been playing cornerback just a few months now, after the Raiders suggested he convert from running back. Jones was stuck down on the depth chart without hope of promotion, so head coach Dennis Allen asked him to man a position he hadn’t played since high school.
Jones was a quality corner back in his youth, and never considered a switch at the professional level. In order to remain a Raider, Jones was willing to try anything.
“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.”
It’s incredibly difficult to learn a position while fighting for a roster spot. He’s typically working with the third team, with players likely cut by September. Jones is an excellent special teams player, which could help him carve a niche while he develops as a corner.
"I will say this. It’s a tough transition,” coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s been playing running back, and then all of a sudden we put him on the other side of the ball and start working him at corner, but I think he’s doing a nice job. He is still behind, though.
“But the other thing I think you have to understand about Taiwan is, [that] Taiwan is probably one of the better special teams players in the league. I think that’s always going to come down and be a factor when we start looking at the roster. I think special teams will be a big factor in that for him.”
Allen sees potential in this position switch.
While technical aspects are being learned each day, Jones has the quick reaction time required to be a quality defensive back. His acrobatic pass breakup is proof of that.
“Playing corner feels really natural,” Jones said. “But there are things working through. I do have to work on using my leverage to my advantage and getting my eyes in the right places. I need to keep progressing, but I feel like I’m getting there.”