NFL Nation: Jacoby Ford

A team often can fill its biggest needs in free agency, creating more flexibility when it comes time for the draft. In other words, the team can draft the best available player (in theory) without having to reach to address a need.

You can't say that about the New York Jets. They signed five free agents from other teams, including two wide receivers and a cornerback, but their top needs remain the same -- wide receiver, tight end and cornerback. This illustrates an absolute lack of depth at those positions.

Dimitri Patterson never has been mentioned with the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but he obviously feels he's an underrated talent. His self-confidence was apparent Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

Patterson
"Obviously, I don’t have the sexiest or flashiest name or I don’t have a lot of hype behind my name," Patterson said. "The thing about it is when you turn on the tape, with the opportunity that has been given to me ... my numbers speak for themselves. ... I have been able to show that, when the opportunity is given, I can play at a high level and I can handle the top receivers."

The New York Jets gave him a one-year, $3 million contract, which consists of a $1 million signing bonus, a $1.5 million base salary and $500,000 in roster bonuses ($31,250 for every game he's on the active 46). The size of the contract suggests Patterson will be on the field a lot. He said he will have the opportunity to replace Antonio Cromartie in the starting lineup.

"They told me that there is definitely a strong opportunity there for me to come in and pick up where I left off last year," said Patterson, who started four games for the Miami Dolphins before a groin injury forced him to the sideline.

Patterson revealed that he underwent surgery last December to correct the problem, saying he feels "great." That's the knock on him, that he's injury prone. Patterson, who turns 31 next month, has missed 24 games the past two seasons. The man he's replacing, Cromartie, never missed a game due to injury.

"I just ask that [the] individual look at what I have been able to do when given the opportunity, and look at that as a football player and not someone that has a lot of hype behind his name or is hyped up," he said. "[Just look at me] as a football player who has done a lot with the little opportunity that has been given to him."

The Jets also introduced wide receiver Jacoby Ford via conference call. Ford, who spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, said he will compete for the kickoff-return job and, possibly, the punt-returning job. They could use a boost in those areas. Like Patterson, Ford is trying to shake the label that he's injury prone. He missed the 2012 season, recovering from foot surgery. He claimed he's still as fast as he was when he came out of Clemson in 2010, which means he's pretty fast. He ran a 4.28 in the 40.

"The exact same or faster [than when I came out of school]," said Ford, who signed a one-year deal for probably about $1 million. "I feel that confident in my running."
A few takeaways on former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford signing with the New York Jets:

Ford
1. Typical: This is an Idzik-ian move all the way. One of the NFL's top receivers is on the open market -- DeSean Jackson -- but general manager John Idzik avoids the big splash and takes a short-term flier on the fast, but injury-prone Ford. This won't increase Idzik's popularity among frustrated fans, but it's the kind of low-risk move that he likes. Jackson is too costly and has too much baggage.

2. Depth chart: Ford (57 career catches) won't start -- heck, he's not even a lock to make the team -- but he has one thing going for him: Speed. He ran a 4.28 in the 40 coming out of Clemson in 2010, and the current receiving corps lacked a true burner. The big question with Ford is his durability. He's made out of glass, having missed 26 games over the past three years. Considering the Jets' injuries at receiver in recent years, Ford doesn't exactly fit the profile of what they need at the position.

3. Special-teams impact: Ford, who has scored four times on kickoff returns in his career, becomes one of the leading candidates to replace Josh Cribbs. The Jets' return game lacked sizzle, and Ford can change that -- if healthy. It should be noted, though, that the value of kickoff returners has decreased because of the rule changes.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Two mistakes, really, stand out when it comes to Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin’s play last week at the Dallas Cowboys.

There was the fumbled snap inside the Raiders 5-yard line that was recovered by the Cowboys and, one play later, Dallas converted into its first touchdown late in the first quarter to tie the game, 7-7.

[+] EnlargeMatt McGloin
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRaiders QB Matt McGloin said he's determined not to repeat the same mistakes he made in a loss to Dallas last week.
Then there was McGloin’s ill-fated decision to throw a jump ball to the 5-foot-9 Jacoby Ford in the end zone that, had it been completed, would have tied the game at 28-28, with the extra point, midway through the fourth quarter. Instead it was intercepted by the 6-foot Brandon Carr, and the Cowboys went on to win, 31-24.

And as the Raiders prepare for the New York Jets, one of McGloin’s purported greatest strengths in his nascent NFL career is to learn from his mistakes.

“He’s been pretty good, as far as getting the ball out with timing, throwing the ball accurately,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve been able to get some explosive passes down the field, so I just really want to see him continue.

“He’s still a young player. Unfortunately for us, both the quarterbacks that we’ve played the majority of the season with are really relatively young at the position. You want to see those guys continue to grow.”

Truly, the only way McGloin and Terrelle Pryor can grow is by learning from their mistakes, right?

“I think so,” McGloin said. “I think any time you watch film or you watch your last game, you pick up on things that you can’t believe happened. Last week, the fumbled snap, I’ve been snapping with that guy [Stefen Wisniewski] since college. Things like that happen that shouldn’t have happened.”

Then what about the end zone pick?

“Another bad, bad mistake by me,” McGloin said. “It’s stuff like that that you can’t believe happened. But at the same time you learn from it and you gain experience from it. You keep improving and hope the next time those plays come around, you don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Because while the fumbled snap could be seen as a physical mistake, the throw to Ford was a mental miscue.

“It was just a bad decision by me.” McGloin said. “The matchup wasn’t great. Obviously, Jacoby isn’t the biggest guy in the world for a jump ball. Not taking anything away, he’s a great player for us. That just wasn’t a good decision by me. I have to make a better decision there.”

You could forgive McGloin for forcing the action. After all, he is an undrafted rookie who entered training camp as a fourth-stringer, behind Tyler Wilson, Pryor and Matt Flynn and is still trying to prove himself.

But while McGloin does pride himself on correcting his mistakes quickly, the key is employing said solutions on the field.

“You have to, especially at the quarterback position,” he said. “You have to learn from your mistakes and move on because everyone’s expecting you not to make the same mistake twice. If you do, you’re not going to be in a starting position for long.”

Just ask Flynn … or even Pryor.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 13

November, 29, 2013
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An review of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

A silver lining: The injury to receiver Denarius Moore more than opened the door for former Cowboys wideout Andre Holmes, who put on a show against his one-time team in catching seven passes for a game-high 136 yards. Especially when you consider he entered the game with five career catches for 76 yards. Bittersweet? “It felt good,” he said. “If I had a calendar, I checked this game because I wanted to come here and play well in front of a team I had played for. It just sucks we didn't get the win.” Said Raiders QB Matt McGloin: “He's a guy I definitely trust. … He's a guy that will go and get the ball for you.”

[+] EnlargeOakland's Andre Holmes
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsAndre Holmes had seven catches 136 yards against his former team.
McGloin takes a step back? After being a profile in efficiency in the first half -- he was 11-for-15 passing for 146 yards -- McGloin was 7-15 for 109 yards after halftime and had a costly end-zone interception when the Raiders were attempting to tie the game at 28-28 with 8:39 to play. He attempted a fade or jump-ball pass to the 5-foot-9 Jacoby Ford, who was covered by the 6-foot Brandon Carr. “If it was a touchdown,” McGloin said, “nobody would have thought a thing about it.” Actually, had Ford caught it, there would have been a lot of talk as it would have been his first TD catch since Nov. 6, 2011.

Injuries: Right guard Mike Brisiel was lost for the game after the first play with a knee injury. He was replaced by Andre Gurode, who was replaced after four false start penalties by Lucas Nix. Also injured: running back Rashad Jennings (concussion), safety Usama Young (stinger), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (calf) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (stinger).

Of explosive plays XII: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by coach Dennis Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had seven such plays against the Cowboys, all passes. Dallas had five explosive plays, one run and four passes. In 12 games, the Raiders have 86 explosive plays (24 runs, 62 passes), with three TD runs and seven passing scores. Oakland's opponents, meanwhile, now have 84 explosive plays combined, 18 runs (one TD) and 66 passes (seven TDs).

Brandon Carr rebounds with late pick

November, 28, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Carr admittedly struggled in the first half against the Oakland Raiders.

Carr
That most of it came against former Cowboys practice squad wide receiver Andre Holmes made it worse to fans who expect more out of the $50 million cornerback.

But when it mattered most Thursday, Carr came up with the biggest play of the game for the Dallas defense in a 31-24 victory.

Leading 28-21 the defense buckled when Holmes caught a 35-yard pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to the Dallas 21. Two plays later from the 20 McGloin chose to go at Carr with Jacoby Ford running a go route down the sideline.

“He just threw it up and they’d got enough big balls on us throughout the game,” Carr said. “I figured it was time to go ahead and make a play and shift the momentum.”

Carr was able to out-jump Ford for the ball to come down with his third interception of the season. The Cowboys’ offense then drove 79 yards on 14 plays, eating up 6 minutes and 43 seconds before settling for a 19-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 1:56 to play.

In the first half Holmes was able to beat Carr down the sideline on a similar play to the Cowboys' 1 after a replay review overturned what had been a touchdown.

“I was playing off this time,” Carr said. “Just good ball placement by the quarterback. He read it and threw it to his big guys to go up and leap for the ball.”

Tested a second time, Carr would not get fooled again.

“Just keep playing,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s the nature of the league, cornerbacks isolated out on islands. The quarterbacks and receivers in this league are good. The other guys, they’re going to win sometimes ... B-Carr just kind of hung in there and kept battling and eventually he made the play in the end zone. It was a big play for us.”

Midseason Report: Oakland Raiders

November, 6, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- You knew this was going to be a rebuilding year for the Oakland Raiders and, before Sunday's embarrassing 49-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland was playing above expectations. Indeed, after a 4-12 season last year, the Raiders had a chance to win their fourth game at this year's midway points.

Alas, the Eagles and Nick Foles, who threw a record-tying seven touchdowns, had different plans and it makes you wonder if these are indeed the same old Raiders who have not been to the playoffs since 2002, let alone had a winning season since that Super Bowl campaign. The difference, at least on the surface, is this team has been in every game save two -- at Denver and against the Eagles.

But the NFL is a results-oriented business and at the midway point, the Raiders sit at 3-5.

 
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
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.”

WR Holmes added to injury report

October, 31, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders receiver Andre Holmes was added to the team's injury report with a hamstring issue Thursday, seemingly opening the door for second-year wideout Juron Criner to be active Sunday for the first time this season.

Holmes
Criner, the second of two fifth-round picks in general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen's first draft class, was slowed coming out of training camp this summer with a hamstring strain. Might Criner's first action of 2012 come against the Philadelphia Eagles?

"He's worked his way back and there's a chance that Juron could be up this week, based on the way that he's been practicing and the health of that player,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday.

The 6-feet-3, 221-pound Criner played in 12 games as a rookie and caught 16 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.

"It's frustrating but you can't let it frustrate you,” Criner said after the Raiders' bye week. "I'm a young guy, I'm a young receiver, I got time. They have other options that they're going with right now. I can't do anything but respect that. But if I let it get me down, it will only put me further under. It won't help me any.”

Besides Holmes' hamstring, rookie Brice Butler had a drop that turned into an interception last weekend and veteran Jacoby Ford had the worst game of his professional career, losing a fumble on a catch and having an adventure on punt return. Allen, though, said Ford would again return punts, with Taiwan returning kickoffs.

Following, then, is the Raiders' injury report for Thursday:

Did not participate: SS Tyvon Branch (ankle), C/G Andre Gurode (quad), RT Tony Pashos (hip).

Limited practice: WR Andre Holmes (hamstring), LT Menelik Watson (calf).

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 8

October, 28, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 21-18 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

No staying power: For the fourth straight home game the Raiders had a quick start, only for the offense to play the second half as if stuck in neutral. Against Washington, it was a 14-0 lead before losing 24-14. Against San Diego, the Raiders led 17-0 before hanging on for a 27-17 victory. Two weeks ago, it was a 7-0 lead at Kansas City that would have been 10-0 were it not for a missed field goal. And Sunday, the Raiders led 21-3 before beating Pittsburgh 21-18. Without saying it outright, quarterback Terrelle Pryor hinted the play calling got conservative in the second half against the Steelers, and the Raiders were trying to salt away an 18-point lead. Oakland, though, lost its momentum and had but one first down and 35 yards of offense after halftime. Coach Dennis Allen admitted the Raiders need to find a killer instinct.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Darren McFadden
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsDid the Raiders get too conservative with their play calling in the second half?
FedEx for Tarver? So incensed was defensive coordinator Jason Tarver at a personal foul call on cornerback Mike Jenkins with 8:48 left in the third quarter that Tarver was caught by TV cameras giving a one-finger salute to the officials. And no, he was not telling them they were No. 1. Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira wrote an online column saying he took it upon himself to alert the NFL about Tarver giving the refs the bird, er, business, and Tarver should expect a fine from the league. Three years ago, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil was slapped with a $40,000 fine for flipping off the refs when he disagreed with a penalty. Oh, and the flags thrown at Jenkins were picked up, resulting in no penalty.

Ford stalls: Three years ago Jacoby Ford was a playmaking game-changer for the Raiders. Sunday, he could not get out of his own way. Ford badly misplayed two punts, allowing one to be downed at the 1-yard line, the other to nearly glance off him for a turnover. He fumbled another punt return out of bounds and lost a fumble on a short pass catch in the flat. The Steelers turned that turnover into their first touchdown. “You put the ball on the ground in a game like that, you’re giving them an opportunity to get back in the game,” Allen said. “Good teams don’t do that.”

Of explosive plays VII: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had four such plays against Pittsburgh: two runs, including Pryor’s 93-yard scamper on the first play of the game, and two passes, while the Steelers had five explosive plays, all passes. In seven games, the Raiders have 49 explosive plays (17 runs, 32 passes), with two TD runs and four passing scores. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 46 explosive plays, nine runs and 37 passes with a touchdown each way.

Special teams a black hole for Steelers

October, 27, 2013
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OAKLAND -- Shaun Suisham hit the mark on at least one thing before embarking on what had to be the longest plane ride of his life: his culpability in the Pittsburgh Steelers' third consecutive loss in Oakland.

“Look it’s no secret, the impact my missed field goals had on the game,” Suisham said after the Steelers' 21-18 loss. “I should have been better today and we lost because of it.”

The cruel irony for Suisham: the native Canadian is a huge hockey fans and his uncharacteristic misses gave the Steelers a dubious hat trick as they lurch toward the halfway point of the season,

The offense and defense had each lost games earlier this season. Special teams joined those units Sunday in a game that the Raiders seized control of early and then tried to give back to the Steelers in every way imaginable.

Oakland ultimately did not cough up the game because the Steelers’ special teams provided the Raiders with just enough cushion to move to 3-4 this season in spite of themselves.

Both of Suisham’s missed came inside of 35 yards. Zoltan Mesko bobbled a snap that resulted in a partially blocked punt and led to the second of Oakland’s three touchdowns. Suisham's onside kick at the end of the game bounced right to Rashad Jennings, who earlier had partially blocked the Mesko punt.

The sequence that best summed up the Steelers’ dismal special-teams play came near the end of the first half.

Mesko boomed a 30-yard punt that put Oakland in position to add to its 18-point lead. A Cortez Allen interception gave the ball right back to the Steelers, and Ben Roethlisberger drove to the Raiders’ 16-yard line.

But Suisham pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt just right when the Steelers needed points in the worst way.

The Steelers couldn't even claim to be lucky rather than good Sunday on special teams.

Far from it, in fact.

A Mesko punt appeared to bounce off Jacoby Ford in the second quarter as the the Raiders wide receiver was falling backward while trying to avoid fielding the ball. Shamarko Thomas came up with the loose ball, and his fumble recovery would have given the Steelers the ball at the Raiders’ 28-yard line.

Officials, however, ruled that the ball glanced off Antwon Blake's finger before it touched Ford and whistled the play dead.

Coach Mike Tomlin challenged the call but it was upheld.

The call, right or not, would have been a moot point had Suisham played anywhere close to the kicker who entered the game 14 of 14 on field goal attempts and made a 47-yarder before his two misses.

“I told him to keep his head up,” Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said. “He’s been leading us all year and don’t hang his head now. We’ve got to continue to stand by his back because we know in this league everything is not always going to be perfect.”

The Steelers didn't need their special teams to be perfect on Sunday. An average showing by those units probably would have led to the Steelers returning to Pittsburgh with a 3-4 record.

Instead the Steelers are 2-5 with a trip to New England next on the schedule. And the one thing we've learned about this team two months into the season is that it sure can find ways to lose a game.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

October, 27, 2013
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 21-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

What it means: The Raiders ended their decadelong post-bye blues against a rival as ancient as it is disliked. Before Sunday, the last time Oakland won a game immediately after a bye was in 2002, the Raiders had been outscored by a cumulative 271-139 in going 0-10 in said games. The Raiders continued their streak of luck against Pittsburgh, winning their third straight against the Steelers in Oakland. And while the Raiders’ offense got off to a quick start in building a 21-3 lead -- including Terrelle Pryor's record-setting 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game -- it continued its troublesome trend of going flat in the second half. The defense had to again make a late stand after getting outscored 15-0 in the second half.

Stock watch: Falling -- Jacoby Ford. Remember when he was an electric game-changer on offense and special teams as a rookie in 2010? Then came injuries and ineffectiveness. Sunday, he endured a rough one, misplaying two punts, fumbling a punt return out of bounds and losing a fumble on a reception deep in Pittsburgh territory that the Steelers would turn into their first touchdown.

Pryor's record run: The Steelers had to know Pryor was a threat to run, right? And yet, on the first offensive play of the game, Pittsburgh bit hard on Pryor's zone-read option fake handoff to Darren McFadden going left, and Pryor, helped by sealing blocks from right tackle Matt McCants and receiver Rod Streater was gone. Pryor’s 93-yard run was the longest by a quarterback in NFL history and the longest run in Raiders franchise history, eclipsing the 92-yarder running back Bo Jackson had against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5, 1989.

King crowns Brown: Marquette King fashions himself a football player rather than just a punter. He looked like one on his tackle of Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter that possibly saved a touchdown, popping Brown and riding him down after a 44-yard return.

What's next: The Raiders (3-4) host the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) for the first time since a 13-9 victory in 2009. Oakland has won three of the past four meetings with Philadelphia, coming out on top in 1995, 2001 and 2009 while falling in 2005.
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.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Looking for a silver lining in the Raiders’ come-from-ahead 24-14 loss to Washington on Sunday?

Go to the 9:10 mark of the second quarter, when Oakland faced a fourth-and-1 at its own 28-yard line and was lined up to punt.

Jones
The result was described by Raiders coach Dennis Allen as “stealing a possession” against Washington.

Jacoby Ford went into motion and settled on the line of scrimmage before the snap and went directly to the speedy Taiwan Jones, who took off down the left side of the field for a 19-yard pick up and a first down.

Jones said the play had been installed two weeks prior.

“I was actually surprised we ran it,” Jones said Monday.

“We had it called right away, so it was already planned and we were just able to execute it.”

Jones, whose speed has never been in question, changed positions this season from running back to cornerback (no, Allen did not anticipate moving him back with Darren McFadden's hamstring now in question) but has stuck to the Raiders’ roster with his special teams play. Especially as a gunner.

But Sunday, he also showed himself to be a different kind of weapon.

“When your number’s called, I would hope your radar would go up,” Jones said. “It was just one of those things where (Allen) felt like we were in good position to make the call and he called it. My number was up and I had a good block up front so we were able to execute it.”

The storybook ending would be that Oakland, clinging to a 14-10 lead, finished the “stolen” possession with a score, right? Instead, the Raiders ran three more plays, picked up 8 yards and punted ... on fourth-and-2.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each AFC West team as training camps get underway:

Denver: Running back, Montee Ball vs. Ronnie Hillman: Hillman is starting training camp as the No. 1 running back. But he will be hard-pressed to keep the job. The plan is for Ball, a second-round pick from Wisconsin, to quickly get ready to take over as the No. 1 back. Denver spent a lot of time grooming him in the offseason, but Ball will have to show he can handle the job in training camp. And he'll need to handle every aspect of being a starting tailback, including picking up blocking schemes. But that goes for Hillman, too. He played some last season and played well in the playoffs. But he is considered more of a change-of-pace guy. So while Hillman gets first crack, I think we will see Ball emerge and Hillman as a backup.Knowshon Moreno will be in the mix early as well, but Denver is going to focus on the youngsters.

Kansas City: Tight end, Tony Moeaki vs. Travis Kelce: The Chiefs’ top tight end this season might be free-agent pickup Anthony Fasano. But the second tight end will get a lot work. Moeaki has a lot of ability, but he has had trouble staying healthy. Kelce is a third-round pick. The new regime really likes him, and he has a chance to get a ton of playing time early. So this will be a solid camp battle. If Moeaki stays healthy, I can see him holding off Kelce, at least, for the short term.

Oakland: Receiver/returner Josh Cribbs vs. Jacoby Ford: I’m not sure this will be an either/or scenario. I think the Raiders would be fine with keeping both players if possible. But Oakland does have several young, intriguing receivers. If the Raiders feel there are some receivers (such as undrafted free agent Conner Vernon) they can’t keep off the 53-man roster, Oakland might only have room for Cribbs or Ford. Not both. Ford has had trouble staying healthy. When healthy, he is a dynamic return man and is better than Cribbs as a receiver. Cribbs is still strong as a returner but is also coming off an injury. It could come down to who is the healthier of the two.

San Diego: Top receivers. The Chargers’ receiving group looks promising, but it is currently difficult to project exactly what the rotation will be. It could shake out in training camp. The top four receivers will likely be Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd and rookie Keenan Allen. I think we will see Brown and Alexander as the top receivers once the season starts. Floyd has been a starter, but he might be best as a No. 3 or No. 4 working as a deep threat. Allen will play, but only if he's ready. Alexander was terrific in the second half of last season after he was signed off the street. If he can show he wasn’t a flash in the pan, he could be dynamic. Brown is the key. He looks like he can be a top-notch possession receiver. He showed promise as a rookie but missed all of last season with an ankle injury. Now he's healthy and ready to go. He could be the most productive receiver on this unit.

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