No one doubts the top-end speed of Oakland Raiders running back Taiwan Jones, but 1 1/2 seasons into his NFL career, he can't get started.
Jones has one carry for 2 yards this season after a rookie season that included 16 rushes for 73 yards.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Eastern Washington, Jones may get his first chance at meaningful, extended playing time Sunday when the Raiders play the Baltimore Ravens.
Both lead running back Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson have high right ankle sprains, and although coach Dennis Allen said neither player would be ruled out until Friday or later, it's likely neither will play.
That leaves Jones, fullback Marcel Reece and potentially practice squad player Jeremy Stewart to man a running game that has struggled even with McFadden in the lineup.
"I'm definitely excited. There's definitely an opportunity for me to extend my role on the team," Jones said. "I'm getting the opportunity, so I want to make the most of it."
As a rookie, Jones had hamstring issues, not to mention the presence of McFadden and Michael Bush blocking his way.
This season, Jones missed a portion of training camp with another hamstring problem, then had rib and knee concerns that dropped him behind Goodson.
"He's been a little up and down and a little injury-plagued, so it's been kind of tough to evaluate because he's missed some time," Allen said. "But we've got confidence in Taiwan, and if he's called on to step in and play, then we fully anticipate him stepping in to perform and do the job."
Jones has also had some ball-security issues that have kept him from some opportunities. He caught a short pass from punter Shane Lechler on a trick play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week and promptly fumbled the ball before recovering it.
He still has the blazing speed that allowed him to rip off a 4.3 40-yard dash at his pro day. Defensive back Michael Huff called Jones the fastest player on a team that includes Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is looking forward to seeing Jones operate in the open field.
"I feel like since I've been here, I've waited for him to get his opportunity and it hasn't worked out, and here it is," Palmer said. "He'll get his touches, and I can't wait. He's so electrifying. He puts his foot on the ground and goes. He wiggles out of hits, out of tackles."