NAPA -- The Raiders don’t have players lined up to return kickoffs or punts. They’re experimenting with several options during training camp, hoping to find dynamic returners to help fight the battle for field position.
The team used five players to field punts during the opening practice of training camp Friday at the Napa Valley Marriott.
One in particular carries high risk and high reward.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was in this quintet, just as he was at times during the offseason program, an intriguing prospect for head coach Dennis Allen to consider.
“We don’t have anyone set at that position, and he did some of that when he first came into the league,” Allen said. “He’s done it at a high level.”
Jones-Drew has returned punts sparingly as a pro. He has 15 returns with an 8.9-yard average, with just five since 2009. The Raiders were close to that, averaging 8.2 yards per return in 2013. Last year’s primary return men, Jacoby Ford and Phillip Adams, departed via free agency.
Returning punts is an often-dangerous game, with plenty of injury risk involved. Would the Raiders consider putting someone expected to be their primary back in harm’s way?
That will certainly weigh in Allen’s decision. He worked out other options on Friday, including rookie cornerback TJ Carrie, receiver Denarius Moore, an undrafted rookie receiver Mike Davis and kickoff returner Greg Jenkins.
Right now at least, Jones-Drew is an option to return punts.
“We’re going into this camp with an open mind, to find players that can help us in every phase. That’s a spot were Maurice can potentially help us, and I want to take a look at it. We’ll see. It may be something that works out for us or it may not.”