Taiwan Jones entered the NFL with elite speed, and if he's going to utilize that speed for the Raiders next season, it will be on the defensive side of the ball. After spending the first two years of his career as a running back, Jones is making the transition to cornerback full time.
It's not entirely uncommon to see players jump to the other side of the ball for special packages or in emergency situations, but it's rare for an NFL veteran of two seasons to make as drastic of a change as moving from running back to cornerback. Jones's position change comes as a result of ball-security issues. He carried the ball just six times last season. The Raiders' coaching staff did not have faith in Jones' ball security or his ability to play in the zone blocking scheme, according to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride.
Jones spent most of last season playing special teams and developed into one of Oakland's top gunners and kickoff-coverage men. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said he scouted Jones as a cornerback and was pushing for the shift to defense this offseason.
While it will be a tough transition to make, Jones does have some experience at corner. He played the position his freshman season at Eastern Washington before moving to running back. For his part, Jones is embracing the switch and said he has the mindset of doing whatever it takes to help the team.
"It's coming along," Jones said, via Silver and Black Pride. "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."
Jones may have the right attitude, but he will be facing an uphill battle. NFL players make small position changes all the time, but there is a major difference between moving from defensive end to outside linebacker and moving from running back to cornerback. Drastic changes tend to occur while the player is in college.
When it comes to recent NFL history, there aren't many examples of players making the transition well. Cincinnati moved Taveon Rogers from wide receiver to cornerback during training camp last season. He ended up spending the season on the Reserve/Injured List before being moved back to wide receiver this offseason. Chicago's Devin Hester moved from cornerback to wide receiver after his rookie season, but with mixed results. Hester spent six seasons at wide receiver, but he failed to establish himself as a top target and is now strictly a return man for the Bears.
Jones got his first taste of cornerback during Monday's OTA session, and Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle said he will have a "steep uphill climb" to make the 53-man roster. It may be an significant challenge, but Jones can draw inspiration from two of the NFL's top young cornerbacks. Green Bay's Sam Shields didn't begin playing cornerback until his senior season in college, while Seattle's Richard Sherman made the All-Pro team last season in just his fourth full season after moving from wide receiver.