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Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Taiwan Jones carving niche at 'gunner'

By Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Taiwan Jones, drafted to be a speedy change-of-pace back for Darren McFadden in 2011 before being converted to cornerback this offseason, has found a home on special teams.

And he’s made being a gunner on the Raiders’ punt-coverage teams somewhat fashionable.

“I think Taiwan Jones, if he’s not the best special-teams player in the league, he’s one of the best in the league,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s a difference-maker in all of our coverage units.

Jones
“The type of speed that he’s got, his willingness to go down and create contact and make tackles ... those are the things that you have to have and I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Besides disrupting punt returners, often while being double-teamed, Jones has also flashed his world-class speed. On a trick play against Washington, he took the direct snap from Jon Condo after the Raiders shifted into a formation out of a punt with Jacoby Ford just off center. Jones then sped off for a 19-yard gain and a first down.

And, yes, while there was satisfaction in bursting down the left sideline on that play, his main job description is to blow up punt returns. And the way he’s been playing the position of late -- he has five tackles on the season, including two at Kansas City last weekend -- he is getting satisfaction out of it.

“I have a lot of pleasure,” he said. “I’m having fun out there. Being a gunner, it’s one of those positions where it’s not too much scheming; it’s just man on man, mano y mano out there, and whoever has the most effort out there is going to win. That’s one thing I enjoy.”

Sunday, he limited Dexter McCluster to a 1-yard punt return off a Marquette King 50-yard punt in the third quarter before stopping McCluster for a 7-yard gain on a 51-yard King punt in the fourth.

“You’ve got to watch film,” Jones said. “You’ve got to learn other team’s tendencies, key into some of the clues they give you and use them to your advantage.”

Jones said his goal is to make the Pro Bowl as a special-teamer.

“I’m shooting to be the best at what I’m doing right now,” he said.

Allen obviously believes Jones will come through on that promise.

“It means a lot because when you’re putting it out on the field every day,” Jones said, “it’s good to see your head coach notice that.”

Jones is making it easy for Allen, and opponents, to notice.