The Oakland Raiders missed Jacoby Ford in week two, but not in the way most thought they would. Most believed that Jacoby Ford would be the Raiders leading receiver this season. So when he went out with an injury, it was feared that the Raiders passing game would struggle to find success.
On the contrary, the passing game thrived in week two as rookie Denarius Moore broke out for a huge game and Derek Hagan added a solid performance. But that doesn't mean that Ford was not missed greatly by the Raiders. Besides being a serious threat as a wide receiver, Ford is also a dynamic kick returner. His rookie season he took three kickoffs to the house.
Without Ford, the Raiders struggled greatly in the kick return game. Back up Nick Miller looked just plain terrible. Unlike in week one where every kick off went deep in the endzone or out the back of the endzone, the Bills realized early on that their best bet was to kick to Miller who struggled to even get the ball to the 20 yard line. As a result, the Raiders started drives at the 12 yard line, the 14 yard line and the 18 yard line.
Truth be told, it was rather shocking that Hue Jackson opted to put Miller out there for the injured Ford. In the final preseason game of the year, Miller muffed a kick off out of bounds at the 4 yard line. With very little value in the passing game, and serious struggles being effective in the return game, I thought Miller was a potential target to get cut.
Now, it appears that Jackson has seen the error of his ways, as Miller was not taking the first team kick off reps in practice this week. Instead, the Raider Nation will get an opportunity to see what the speed running back out of Eastern Washington, Taiwan Jones, can do with the kick offs.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the Raiders would have a special set of plays designed to get the ball in Jones' hands and take advantage of his ridiculous speed. Now, Jones will get to use his speed in the return game as opposed to just on offense.
It will be a tough interview for Jones, however. The Jets have one of the better kick coverage teams in the league and the change in kick off rules has allowed good kickers to place the ball in a tempting place to return it, but with more hang time than in previous years so that the coverage team can get further down the field.
The Raiders face a real tough test against the Jets in week three. With two real solid defenses, field position will be incredibly important in this game. If Jones can impress in the return game, not only could he continue to be the returner when Ford comes back (no sense in risking injury to Ford if Jones can be as big of a threat), but it could also convince the Raiders coaching staff to get the ball in his hands more often on offense.