- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders will use Taiwan Jones and Jacoby Ford to return kickoffs and punts again this week, against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite Ford’s recent problems against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ford, who holds the Raiders’ record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season (three, in 2010) and a career (four), was moved to punt returner against the Steelers and endured the roughest outing of his four-year career.
He had a swift 20-yard punt return the first time he touched the ball, but then fumbled it out of bounds when he was tackled. Ford then badly misjudged two punts, allowing the Raiders to be pinned on their own 1-yard line before almost turning it over on a ball that nearly hit his shin.
Ford also lost a fumble on a catch in the left flat in the fourth quarter, which led to the Steelers’ first touchdown two plays later.
“Jacoby’s going to be just fine,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said when asked about Ford’s confidence this week.
“I think we all realize, listen, sometimes you go out and you don’t play a good game. We talk all the time – the sin’s not in getting knocked down. The sin’s not being able to get back up. All our guys have done a great job when they haven’t performed up to their standards. They’ve come back and they’ve responded and I expect him to do the same.”
While the Raiders have one of the most complete kick-coverage units in the NFL, their return games have been somewhat stagnant, averaging 9.2 yards per punt return, which ranks 12th in the NFL, and 21.5 yards on kickoffs, 23rd in the league.
So why the change, one that removed Phillip Adams from punt-return duties?
“We’ve got to get something going in the return game and so we’re always looking for any way that we can help to provide a spark or improve our football team in any way that we can,” Allen said.
“I think those guys give us a little bit of spark in those particular areas and we’re going to continue to look at that and hopefully that’ll be what we need to get this return game going.”
5dEric D. Williams
6dEric D. Williams