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Raiders corner ready for Year 2 with team: ‘I ain’t gonna stop smiling’

Updated May 31, 2024 - 7:30 am

Jack Jones got a rare second chance with the Raiders last year.

So if it seems like he’s always in a good mood these days, it’s because he is.

“I ain’t gonna stop smiling,” Jones said after the Raiders wrapped up an organized team activity practice Wednesday.

The 26-year-old cornerback is right where he wants to be.

He’s playing under coaches he knows and trusts as he enters his first full season with the Raiders. He’s a key player on a defense that has a chance to be one of the best in the NFL.

It’s as close to football nirvana as one can get. It’s also a stark contrast compared to Jones’ career outlook less than a year ago.

He was released in November by the Patriots, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2022. Jones had off-field incidents during his time in New England that included being late to a rehab session and being arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport on gun changes.

The Raiders still picked him up Nov. 14. Antonio Pierce, the team’s interim coach at the time and now the full-time boss, coached Jones at Long Beach Poly High School in California and Arizona State. Former Sun Devils co-defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is also on Pierce’s staff.

Those two know what buttons to push to get the most out of Jones. They know how to hold him accountable without being overbearing.

Or as Lewis put it: “We’re trying to iron Jackie out a little bit.”

Strong bonds

Jones knows that Pierce and Lewis both come from a good place.

“Those are guys I’ve been with a couple of years now, so they got to get a good feel for me, I got to get a good feel for them,” Jones said. “And they know my intent is good. So as long as my intent stays good, I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”

Even when discipline is called for.

“Let’s get that clear, there’s repercussions,” Jones said, laughing.

Jones, after arriving in Las Vegas, went from a player who wore out his welcome in New England to a lockdown corner almost overnight. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns in his seven games with the Raiders.

The team allowed 18 points per game with him in the lineup, which would have ranked fourth in the NFL last season.

Peace of mind can be a powerful thing.

“I couldn’t even put it into words,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s ever been a situation where a player has been with a coach since high school. That’s special. I’m blessed. I thank God for that, for real.”

Jones’ challenge is now putting it all together for a full season. He needs to be reliable each and every day. On and off the field.

“We want to have some consistency of things,” Lewis said.

As an example, Lewis pointed out a big play Jones made in the Raiders’ season-ending 27-14 win over the Broncos. He made a highlight play by sprinting across the field to tip away a ball in the end zone.

“And the next play, he didn’t move,” Lewis said, laughing at the memory.

Taking it to the next level

Eliminating those types of sequences could be the difference between Jones being one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and just an average player.

“He’s a very talented young man,” Lewis said. “He has a knack for making football plays. He just has that about him.”

That was evident Wednesday when the Raiders defense owned the day against the offense. Jones performed well in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills and made sure to let everyone know about it.

The Raiders hope to see more of that in the weeks and months to come.

“Y’all see the energy we’re bringing out there,” Jones said. “It’s different. You can feel it. I think with that pressure and teams feeling that swag, that team camaraderie that we got, I think that’s going to break teams by itself. Just us going out there and being a squad and coming together.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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