Can RB Jones make the switch to cornerback?

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Can RB Jones make the switch to cornerback?

One of the Raiders' many Achilles' heels all season has been the poor play in the secondary in general, at cornerback in particular.

Forgotten running back Taiwan Jones, who has seemingly not only had trouble holding onto the ball but retaining the playbook, is open to making a switch to the other side of the ball. The speedy Jones, after all, played cornerback in high school.

"That’s what I got my scholarship for in college, was to play corner," Jones, who played at Eastern Washington, said last week.

"I played my first year at corner and I didn’t switch until we had four senior running backs graduating, that’s when they asked me change over. Coming into the Combine, I actually thought I was gonna get looked at more at corner than running back but the majority liked what I can do at running back. Due to my foot injury I was only limited to work at one position and running back was what I came out as, obviously."

The Raiders used a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2011 and, while he was the second-string running back for much of training camp behind Darren McFadden and ahead of Mike Goodson, Jones has dealt with injury and lack of productivity to fall to fourth on the depth chart, behind undrafted rookie Jeremy Stewart.

He averaged 4.6 yards on 16 carries as a rookie but has just 21 yards on six carries this season.

Jones' work as a gunner on special teams has been a revelation, though. Enough to have him thinking about making a switch.

"Yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot," Jones said. "Really, I just love playing football. If they need me to play defense, I think I’d be pretty happy with that.

"I really don’t know until that happens. Just going out there at 'jammer,' and I feel pretty comfortable, it’s hard sometimes but that’s with any position. Until that time comes, I can’t really answer that question."

But does Jones think he could make the transition at this level?

"Yeah," he said, "most definitely."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”