Jacoby Ford is the wild card of the Raiders' receiving corps. In his two seasons in the NFL he has been a dynamic playmaker that is able to bring it to the house whenever he gets the ball in his hands. The problem with Jacoby is that like my 96' Ford F-150, he had a tendency to break down last year. He was only able to suit up for 8 games last season and the Raiders need him to improve on that this year.
With his injuries last year, he was unable to contribute in a more meaningful way, but he is very capable of producing big numbers if he can stay on the field. Man, I am sick of saying "If he can stay on the field" when it comes to the players on this roster. It is time quite a few of the Oakland Raider players make it possible for me to retire that phrase. Jacoby especially. He was only able to contribute 19 catches last year, but 5 of the 19 were for 20 yards or more. This team needs him to be able to at least double that production in 2012.
This is the all important third year for this young 24 year old receiver. He has shown that he is able to be very dangerous when utilized properly. He is going to be coming out of the slot and getting quite a few quick slants thrown his way which will allow him to use his speed and shiftiness more. Any time he gets the ball in his hands, it will pay dividends for the offense. I encourage this offense to invest heavily in Jacoby's skill set.
None of that is even considering his value on special teams. He is going to be the Raiders' return man again this year, which is probably where he is most valuable. Hopefully his returning kickoffs and punts will not lead to him spending more time on the injury report. He is too good of a return man to not have back there even with the risk of injury. He averaged an astonishing 31 yards a return last year, with 4 of 11 going for 40+ yards.
This wildcard receiver needs the ball in his hands any way he can get it, and these returns give the Raiders a whole additional dimension. The hope is that he returns a couple right away, causing a Devin Hester effect which results in great field position from teams trying to avoid kicking to him. The added upside is not putting Jacoby in danger of injury.
Something we saw last year from Ford that he really needs to improve on is protecting the football. In those 19 catches of last year he had 2 fumbles-- which is 2 too many. He also had a fumble on one of his 11 kick returns. One might argue it was a result of his hand injury but when looking at his 2010 stats he did have 3 fumbles on kick returns that year too.
His hand injury might have affected his ball control, but this was already a problem before any injuries took place. The Raiders cannot have him putting the ball on the ground. Turnovers killed this team last year, and turnovers on kick returns are especially deflating. Not many things are more disappointing than when the defense actually stops somebody, only to have to stay on the field because the return man mishandled the punt. Fumbles on kick returns are just as bad, so please hold on to the ball Mr. Ford.
All in all I have a whole lot of faith in Jacoby Ford. There has been some chatter about moving him to another team in trade, which is an idea I really dislike. I do have to admit that there is no other player on this roster that is expendable and would bring as much value as Jacoby. He is an elite return man that also has strong receiver skills and that could bring a fair premium to him. I still do not want to see it happen.
I love the receivers on this team and I really believe that each one can bring something a little different to the field. I am excited to see how Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp use them, especially Jacoby Ford. He is a difference maker on the field and I expect to see the ball in his hands regularly. Hopefully this off-season allowed Ford to get the tune up he needed to stay on the field and produce for the Raiders in 2012. They will need every yard of production they can get from him!