When the Oakland Raiders drafted Taiwan Jones back in 2011, it was with the hope that with his speed he would become a stud running back. That never happened but he went on to become a very important special teams member for the Raiders and one of the better gunners in the league. But then Bill Musgrave came to town and suddenly, Jones looked like the guy the Raiders hoped they were getting back in 2011.
It’s not like the Raiders were feeding Jones the ball constantly, but he was getting involved in the offense, something he hadn’t done much at all in his career. Through the first six games of the year, Jones was averaging almost four touches per game. But then he had two fumbles in the Pittsburgh Steelers game and the coaches lost confidence in him almost immediately. Jones was only given three more touches the entire rest of the season as he was relegated back to his former role as a special teams gunner.
The coaching staff gave Jones a shot last year and by the end of the season, it did not appear as though he was going to get another shot on offense. Now that the Raiders have drafted DeAndre Washington, a guy with a very similar skill set who can fill the role that Musgrave was using Jones in last season you have to wonder how solid Jones’ role on the team is at this point.
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The Raiders will only carry so many players who are special teams only type guys. The Raiders under Reggie McKenzie have made special teams a priority, but they are also big fans of players pulling double duty. For example, one of the best special teams players on the Raiders last season was wide receiver Andre Holmes.
If Jones wants to keep a roster spot, he will need to prove he is worthy of a roster spot where he is primarily used as a special teams player. But he has competition for that with a free agent signing, Daren Bates. In fact, Bates may have an edge on Jones because of the lack of depth at middle linebacker as compared to running back where the Raiders have Latavius Murray, Roy Helu, Jr., DeAndre Washington, Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale.
This is a feeling that Raiders fans are going to need to get used to. Good football players, some of whom may have been with the team for a while, could see their names left off of the 53 man roster. It’s what some would call a good problem, while it’s hard to see good players leave, it’s a good sign for the strength of this team that one of the better special teams players in the league could end up being left off of this team.