Jacoby Ford has been the Raiders' everyday kick returner for the past two seasons. During that time, he has been on the of the best in the NFL. He is also the team's slot receiver and in the West Coast Offense he will see the ball a lot. And for the time being, he will be seeing the ball even more as he will be the primary punt returner as well.
When the Raiders came out with their depth chart for the first preseason game, it had Ford listed as the first team kick and punt returner. And with both Denarius Moore and Taiwan Jones out, he is ready to return every foot that leaves the foot of an opposing player.
It is a role that only the best returners in the NFL have. One such returner is Devin Hester who has been considered the gold standard in return men in the NFL for the better part of the last decade. But Jacoby looks to make a name for himself
"I can see a Jacoby Ford role." Said Ford when asked if he would be in a Hester type role. "I can definitely see my own role when I come in. I'm definitely excited about doing punt returns. That's something I've been wanting to do for a long time now. But since I've been here, I just wasn't allowed to. Now that I'm going to definitely get the opportunity to do it, I'm going to make the best of the opportunity and definitely try to score or just set the offense up to have a short field."
According to Ford, he was never given the opportunity to return punts in the past.
"They just wanted me to do the kickoffs and just kind of wait, kind of work me in. The thing is, they didn't want to burn me out. That's what our old special teams coach said. Just kind of stuck with kick return at first."
"Anytime I get the ball in my hands I'm looking to score or set up a score. That's definitely the mentality we have, regardless if we're on offense or on special teams. We're trying to have big plays all over the field."
"Toward the end of the year my rookie year I started catching a lot of punts with coach Bones, coach (John) Fassel, actually, and kind of got back into it because I hadn't done it since college."
"I did it a lot in college. We had two returners back there every time. We definitely did it a lot in college."
"They're definitely different because with the kickoff return, you don't have to worry about catching and moving right away. You can kind of set up your blocks. But punt return, everything happens a lot faster because you got to get those good blocks on the outside and the good blocks on the inside, and if somebody does get loose, you're going to have to shake one guy and make him miss. You just have to be prepared for those bullets coming down at you."
If given the chance, Ford will be returning punts and kicks in the Monday preseason opener. It remains to be seen if he will continue to perform in both roles in the regular season once Denarius Moore and Taiwan Jones are back healthy.
One thing is for certain, Dennis Allen and the Raiders are looking to get as much as they can from this speedy offensive and special teams threat. And with the skills he has shown in his two years in the league, that can only be a good thing.