Click photo to enlarge
Oakland Raiders' Taiwan Jones (22) runs with the ball against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter of their preseason game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Oakland defeats Detroit 31-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

ALAMEDA -- Taiwan Jones has gotten nowhere fast.

Marcel Reece has excelled out of the backfield doing just about everything but running the ball.

Together, Jones and Reece form an unlikely tandem for the Raiders at running back when they visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson each spent the day in protective boots, nursing high right ankle sprains. Coach Dennis Allen hasn't ruled them out, but the Raiders are making plans to play without them.

"We'll play to the strengths of the backs we're going to use," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said.

Rather than bring in a running back for a tryout Tuesday, Allen said they liked their in-house candidates -- which could also include practice squad player Jeremy Stewart.

For Jones, the second-year player from Antioch's Deer Valley High and Eastern Washington, it represents an opportunity to get out of the starting blocks.

"I'm definitely excited. There's an opportunity for me to extend my role on the team," Jones said. "I'm getting the opportunity so I want to make the most of it."

At 6-foot, 197 pounds, Jones may be the fastest player on the Raiders, who used a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2011 in large part because he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at his pro day at Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh.


Advertisement

Knapp said Jones is one of the fastest players he's ever coached, and cornerback Michael Huff says he has more speed than either Darrius Heyward-Bey or Jacoby Ford, two wide receivers known for their world-class speed.

"You can't tell how fast he's running until you're up on him," Huff said. "By then he's out-run your angle and it's really too late."

Jones has been slowed by hamstring, rib and knee injuries that have cropped up periodically, plus ball-security issues that were cited by both Allen and Knapp.

There have also been some missed assignments, which Knapp attributes to missed practice time because of the injuries.

Quarterback Carson Palmer sounds as if he expects to see a lot of Jones, and to say he's looking forward to it is an understatement.

"He does amazing things in practice, he's by far the fastest person on the field and he will be fastest person on the field on Sunday," Palmer said. "Not that you want to see guys get banged up, but I'm excited about the opportunity he's getting.

"He'll get his touches and I can't wait. He's so electrifying. He puts his foot in the ground and goes. He wiggles out of hits, he wiggles out of tackles. I can't wait to throw him the ball, get him in the open field."

Originally a defensive back in college, Jones moved to running back and gained 2,955 yards on 383 carries and scored 29 touchdowns.

His work as a special teams gunner intrigued Allen enough that he admitted he's toyed with the idea of making him a defensive back, a notion Jones could put to rest with some breakaway runs in McFadden's absence.

Reece, although he played as the lone back in a single back set for more than a quarter against Tampa Bay, carried just once for two yards but has made a name for himself as a receiver out of the backfield.

Against the Bucs, Reece had a career-high eight catches for 95 yards.

"I feel comfortable doing anything in this offense," Reece said. "They've prepared me a long time ago to do anything in this offense and I'm prepared to do it. Whatever happens on Sunday, whatever they ask me to do I'm going to go do it."