"Like an arrow through snow."
It's one of special teams coordinator Brad Seely's favorite phrases, and it's exactly how running back Taiwan Jones tries to approach each opportunity when he drops back deep to return kicks for the Oakland Raiders.
"Really for me, it's where I catch the ball," said Jones. "If I catch the ball five yards deep, then most of the time my coaches want me to take a knee, but if I catch it anywhere ahead of that, [if] I catch it going forward, I'm thinking 'go.' If you see something, go full speed. That's kind of my mentality. I have to get going fast, especially with the rule changes. My attitude is just hit it. Get to the 30 [yard line] and further."
Jones was the team's primary kick returner last season, and although he was purposely held out of the return duties this preseason, his lone attempt was an impressive 33-yard effort, that had it not been for a shoestring tackle, would have resulted in a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.
"That was my first NFL play of this year, so for it to happen that way, it just shows you what kind of upside we have as far as special teams," Jones said. "The unit we got, the guys we have on special teams this year; it's a whole different culture. Everybody wants to be there. Everybody wants to block, and be successful, and when you have a group of guys that's unselfish like that, the sky's the limit."
While Jones grew antsy being shelved for a majority of the preseason, he did admit that there was one major benefit to the decreased workload; he's as healthy as possible heading into the start of the regular season.
"Week 1 is the best you're going to feel all year, but I definitely feel good," Jones said. "I think the coach's decision of sitting me and resting me was good. All my injuries are pretty much behind me now, so it feels good to go in and start the season healthy, so I'm excited for it."
Since he began his career in Silver and Black five seasons ago, Jones has proven to not only be a dynamic kick returner, but a weapon on the team's coverage units as well, all in addition to his value as a running back.
Now entering his second season with Seely, Jones is even more comfortable with what the special teams coordinator will be asking of him in 2016, on both kickoffs and on the coverage units.
"Me and Coach Seely, we both see eye to eye," Jones said. "We both feel the same way about special teams. We both know how important it is. For me, every time I'm on the field, I want to be a factor, and I'm on most of the special teams units, so just being a factor when I'm on kickoff [coverage], trying to make the defense happy by pinning the other team's offense back, and when I'm back on kick return, make our offense happy by giving them great field position. It's just about me pleasing my teammates, and doing in what I can to put the team in a better position."
T – Austin Howard – Ankle – Out
-Fridays during the regular season are called "Fast Fridays," and today's session certainly lived up to that billing, as the team hit the field for an abbreviated practice session for preparing to travel to New Orleans.
-The JUGS machine is a vital tool for any skill player on a football team, and before Friday's practice, wide receivers K.J. Brent and Seth Roberts spent some time catching passes from it. Not to be excluded, cornerback DJ Hayden also got in the rotation too.
-The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is known as one of the louder stadiums in the NFL, and during Friday's practice, the Raiders piped in synthetic crowd noise so the team could adjust to the increased volume of operating on the road.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio's opening statement from Friday's press conference.
"Alright, Fast Friday. We're ready to roll, ready to travel, ready to go down to New Orleans and find a way."
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