Rookie running back Taiwan Jones scores on a 22-yard touchdown run vs. the Saints. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
A third straight exhibition game loss Sunday night, this time by a score of 40-20 at O.co Coliseum to the New Orleans Saints, shouldn’t cause die-hard Raiders followers to start waving silver and black pompoms this week at work.
This was no work of art, and the fact it was blacked out locally was probably more a blessing than a curse.
Coming off a bad loss to the cross-town Niners last week, another disappointing game – filled with some egregious mistakes – isn’t what the Raiders were looking for as they work toward their season opener in a Monday night game Sept. 12 vs. the Broncos.
However, throw out the final score – this is the exhibition season, and Oakland did have a 20-17 lead in the third quarter – and look beneath some of the many blown coverages in a secondary that was picked apart by Drew Brees (understandable) and Chase Daniel (not) -- and there were some signs Sunday night that the Raiders will have some exciting extra offensive weapons this season.
Earlier this week, when head coach Hue Jackson welcomed back some of his injured speedsters to practice, such as running back Darren McFadden and receiver Jacoby Ford, he happily noted, “We got some of my toys back.”
One of those toys he also was referring to was rookie running back Taiwan Jones.
Jones, a fourth-round pick from Eastern Washington – one of the fastest players in the draft – injured a hamstring early in camp. But this week, Jones was back and making head turns with his speed. Sunday night in his game debut, he showed what he’s capable of.
The rookie nicknamed “Roadrunner” carried 13 times for 81 yards, scored on a 22-yard run and had a big gain on screen pass in the first half wiped out by penalty.
As Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter tweeted during the game, “Taiwan Jones is fun to watch. He appears to have football skills to go with that speed.” Earlier, Trotter had noted: “Nice 22-yard TD run by Taiwan Jones. Oakland definitely has some depth at the skill positions. I like what I’m seeing.”
Another of those skill players, free-agent wide receiver Derek Hagan, also had a big night in bidding to establish his role on the team: six catches, 121 yards and a 35-yard TD catch.
Throw Jones and Hagan into an offensive mix with a more established Jason Campbell at quarterback, Michael Bush and McFadden in the backfield and receivers Ford, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and rookie Denarius Moore, and Jackson’s team has plenty of play-makers.
Of course, all those play-makers may be needed if the Oakland defense doesn’t start plugging its holes.
Last week against the 49ers, it was the run defense that was shredded. Sunday night against the Saints, it was the secondary and, in particular, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who was targeted early and often by Brees.
So, as the exhibition season winds to a close – the Raiders have their final match-up Friday at Seattle – there’s still much work to be done defensively. But offensively, Jackson’ team may be even more potent than last season’s.