Last season Taiwan Jones was a forgotten man at running back. Even with the injuries to both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones was left out in the depth chart in favor of UDFA rookie Jeremy Stewart.
The coaching staff had no faith in Jones' ball security or his ability to play in the team's zone blocking scheme. So, he was relegated to special teams duties exclusively. Although, not as a return man because of that whole ball security concern.
With his standout play as a gunner on special teams and his absence from the running game, something had to give. I remembered Jones saying that he and Raiders former camp player, Sterling Moore played opposite each other at cornerback for Deer Valley high, so the obvious question came up. Would he ever consider a position change? His response was a bit surprising.
"That's what I got my scholarship for in college was to play corner," said Jones. "I played my first year at corner and I didn't switch until we had four senior running backs graduating, that's when they asked me change over. Coming into the combine, I actually thought I was gonna get looked at more at corner than running back but the majority liked what I can do at running back. Due to my foot injury I was only limited to work at one position and running back was what I came out as obviously."
The idea was officially out there of Jones finding his way onto the field as a corner. Then a couple months ago, Reggie McKenzie confirmed the team would be trying Jones out at corner.
"I'm pushing for cornerback," McKenzie from the NFL combine. "I think it fits his skill set. I think we're going to see how he does there."
At the time we didn't really know if that was just a little tryout or if Jones was really going to come into camps working with the defensive backs. Today we got out answer - he is now a cornerback.
"During the off-season, DA called me and he asked me how would I feel about making the change to defense," said Jones. "At first I thought I would be upset because I couldn't show everybody what kind of running back I could be but really my mindset is ‘whatever I can do to help the team'. I'm a competitor and I like to compete so I'm just glad I'm on the team so I'm gonna work hard wherever he needs me."
It is just the first OTA session so not a lot can be gleaned from it. He is also still actively making the transition (back) to corner and that is a long process.
"It was pretty fun today," said Jones of his first OTA practice. "I was excited with the new position change. Lately I've been looking at the book work and watching film but it was good to go out there and have a lot of receivers running at you.
"I admit that when I first came out (as a corner), things was going pretty fast for me but toward the end I started to feel comfortable, I started seeing more plays and getting more reps.
"It's coming along. Today was the first day I was able to learn some things about myself. I started to get comfortable throughout the day but I definitely got a lot of work to do."
It is a rare transition for a player to attempt after having joined the NFL to go from one side of the ball to the other. It would seem if anyone can do it, it's Taiwan Jones. He has speed to burn which will make up for some coverage skills he may be lacking and his play on special teams add to his value.
It's still anyone's guess how this transition will work out. On one hand, this move is such a long shot, his odds of making the team are just as long. On the other hand, it speaks highly of Jones' athleticism and skill set that the team would take a chance on him. It will be very interesting to see how it turns out.