With minicamps concluded, and training camp just around the corner, for the first time in quite some time, the Oakland Raiders’ receiving corps is getting a lot of attention. What has been a problem position in years past is now a position of depth. Denarius Moore burst onto the scene in his rookie season last year, showcasing his ability to get down field and make big plays. Darrius Heyward-Bey, not to be outdone, had a breakout season of his own, with 975 yards, despite missing several games. On top of that, a lot of attention is being drawn to the practice performances, and possible potential, of rookie receivers Juron Criner, and Rod Streater. Then you also have Louis Murphy, who is out to prove that his best football is still to come. Amid all of this excitement and hype, Raiders fans everywhere suddenly see a crowded group at the wide receiver position. Don’t forget about Jacoby Ford.
Ford, now a third year receiver out of Clemson, is slightly smaller than your average wideout, at 5’9” but makes up for it with his 4.28 speed. Quite possibly the fastest on a team full of track stars, Ford has unlimited big playmaking ability in many areas of the game. The kicking game may just be the most important of which. In his rookie season, where he did not even initially start out as the primary kick return man, Ford tied for the league lead in kickoff return touchdowns, with 3. The next year, in 2011, he only got a chance to return 11 kicks, due to both an injury riddled season and the NFL’s new kickoff rules. Even so, he returned one of those kicks for a pivotal touchdown in week 5’s win against the Browns. This coming season, based on reports out of minicamp, it seems as though there is a good chance that Ford could be both the Raiders’ primary punt and kick return man, effectively increasing the chances for even more big plays.
Not only is he valuable in the kicking game, but at his natural wide receiver position on offense too. Former offensive coordinator and later Head Coach, Hue Jackson, made a point of getting the ball in Ford’s hands in by any means necessary when he was on the field. New offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, would be wise to do the same. Ford has averaged 17.0 yards per catch, and 13.3 yards per reception in his two year career. Again, the knock on Ford coming into the league was that he was undersized. So far in his career with the Raiders, he hasn’t played like it. Raiders fans will remember several instances where he has gone up, fought for the ball, and came down with it over the opposing defensive back. The most memorable of which was in the 2010 OT win against Kansas City. Ford hauled in 6 passes for 148 yards, including a game saving catch in regulation, stealing a sure interception from Brandon Flowers, and later setting up the game winning field goal in overtime with a catch deep down the field.
The Raiders have a number of talented young wide receivers, and Jacoby Ford is just as dangerous of a playmaker as any. With Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey expected to be the two starters, Ford will likely see most of his playing time in the slot. His speed and quickness presents a matchup nightmare inside that the Raiders should do their best to take advantage of. What makes him even more valuable are his contributions in the kicking game, as what he did in his rookie season showed that he can be one of the top return men in the league.
There is a new regime in Oakland, but this team is still built on speed. Jacoby Ford brings that homerun hitting speed, along with rare playmaking ability, and versatility. He is one of several players that the Raiders’ new coaching staff will do their best to get the ball to in the open field. As fans of the game, it is always exciting to watch players who can score from anywhere on the field.
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