Five-a-Side: Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's easy to forget that Taiwan Jones made 15 tackles in a game as a freshman cornerback at Eastern Washington.
He just seems like he was born to be a running back, his running style so effortless and twists and turns so elusive.
The problem with Jones - whichever side of the ball he's been on - is staying healthy. He battled an assortment of injuries in his three seasons of action at EWU, including this past season when the Eagles won the FCS championship and he didn't play in the national semifinals and championship game because of a broken left foot.
The NFL Advisory Board gave him a third-round grade after his junior season, prompting him to declare for next month's draft. He should do well if he stays healthy.
The left foot has not healed as quickly as he hoped, so he couldn't do most of the drills at the NFL Combine and his pro day has been pushed back several times. The private workout is now set for April 14 at Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh, Calif.
Jones, who is 6 feet, 197 pounds, is susceptible to hard hits because of an upright running style.
There's no questioning his productivity, though. After switching from defense to offense, he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards on over 7.7 yards per carry the last two seasons. He also caught 64 passes during that time and returned kickoffs.
In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Jones discusses his NFL Draft aspirations.
The NFL Advisory Board gave Taiwan Jones a third-round grade.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Obviously, you're coming off having the broken left foot. What is the status of the injury?
TJ: I have some great trainers and the physical therapist has done a good job of being very cautious about it because they know how anxious I am to get going. The fact that I'm able to run and I've been able to do some cuts (recently), I'm very confident that I will be fine on April 14. I can't full wait to go full (speed), though.
TSN: At the NFL Combine, you were limited with what you could do physically. But did you still come away feeling like you impressed teams?
TJ: I wasn't able to do much. The only thing I did was my bench press and I did OK in that. I actually had a lot of pride in it because when I first started training I only did six reps and I was able to come away with 13 at the Combine. I couldn't compete in any of the other drills, but I definitely felt like I impressed some teams during the interviews. That was my main focus since that was the only thing I could really do was meet with teams. I felt like I had a lot of meetings.
TSN: Can you break down your style of play that you feel will work best in the NFL?
TJ: Just my elusiveness. At first I have a lot of speed, but I'm also able to run between the tackles when needed. I have great breakaway speed. I feel like my vision, with my elusiveness, that that will definitely help me at the next level.
TSN: What parts of your game do you want to improve the most?
TJ: I definitely want to become a better student of the game and I practice my pass protection more because at the level I played in I really only had to cut people. Coming to the next level, I know I need to block up high, and that's definitely something that I'm going to work on.
TSN: You're going from being a star most of your life to being one of a number of players in a large pool who are trying to make an NFL roster. How does that affect your approach and confidence level?
TJ: I've always felt that I've been under the radar my whole life, I felt like that was a big secret. I still feel like not many people know about me. I think my approach is I'm just hungry. I'm just hungry to make a name for myself. It's a dream come true, man. Making it is only the first step. I just can't wait to make a team and be productive on that team.