In 2010, rookie Jacoby Ford was one of the NFL’s most exciting players.
The receiver and kick returner from Clemson returned three kickoffs for touchdowns while averaging 24.2 yards per return. He also caught 25 passes for two more scores.
The 5-foot-9 speedster – who ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Combine, the second-fastest ever recorded – gave the Raiders a chance to score any time he got the ball.
But since that season, Ford has spent far more time on the sidelines than the playing field. After playing all 16 games in 2010, he appeared in just eight in 2011, when he caught 19 passes for 279 yards and a TD and averaged 31 yards per return (with a score) on just 11 kickoffs.
Then Ford was lost for all of 2012 because of a lisfranc foot injury suffered in the preseason.
Now, however, Ford appears completely healthy again. His fully-fit return for 2013 would give the Raiders a huge boost.
Ford says he’s “100 percent ready to go,” and he’s been working out this offseasn with quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other teammates.
Ford had surgery to repair the lisfranc injury, which doctors told him was more severe than they originally thought.
“I’m glad to just have it behind me and get rolling now,” Ford recently told the Bay Area media.
With Darrius Heyward-Bey now gone, Ford figures to be in the mix for playing time at wide receiver along with Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Juron Criner, seventh-round pick Brice Butler of San Diego State and undrafted free agent Conner Vernon of Duke.
Ford might also be used returning punts as well as kickoffs. The plan in 2012 was for Ford to add those duties to his list when his season was cut short.
The healthy returns of running back Darren McFadden and Ford would be huge boosts to an offense that struggled in 2012.
With a new offensive coordinator in Greg Olson and a return to a power-blocking scheme -- along with a new No. 1 quarterback in Matt Flynn – Ford and McFadden both say they can’t wait to be back on the field.
“We’re definitely eager to get back out there, because we both know how explosive this offense can be,” Ford told reporters recently after a workout at the Raiders facility. “We have a whole bunch of weapons on this team right now, on both sides of the ball, and on special teams. So I think just bringing this whole team together right now and having everybody here just gets everybody a little antsy and ready to go.”