Jolley had the best rookie season by a tight end not named Jeremy Shockey last year but his playing time has been more sporadic in his sophomore year. Jolley fit into Oakland's game plan tremendously a year ago but seemingly had to get unfrozen Ted Williams style in the Raiders 20-12 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
The Raiders (4-10), who host the Green Bay Packers Monday night, filled the air with passes last season. Jolley, who Oakland drafted in the second round from BYU, caught 32 passes for 409 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season. Jolley has recorded 30 catches for 247 yards and one touchdown this season but has not seen his success springboard in his second season.
Jolley has the speed to create mismatches for linebackers and safeties but had been running shorter patterns. Jolley also took a couple of hard hits early in the season.
"I was taking hits but I felt pretty good," Jolley said. "I felt like I got dinged up more last year. I might have been in better shape my first year because you're gearing up for the combine. It's not the hard hits; it's the awkward hits. The ones you're not ready for or the ones where you get hit and you're in an awkward position. … I've been lucky that I haven't been laid out. Quarterbacks are good about taking care of us. If they make a bad throw, they feel as bad as you do."
This season, however, Oakland had to change its emphasis because of season-ending injuries at quarterback to Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo. Instead of throwing the ball 70 percent of the time, Oakland has relied much more on its ground game.
"I try to prepare every game as if I'm going play every snap," Jolley said. "If you get the chance to go into the game, you have to be ready to do your best no matter what the situation is, if you play every snap or zero snaps."
Rookie Teyo Johnson initially became the starter over Jolley but O.J. Santiago has since taken over that role largely because he is more adept at blocking. Jolley suited up but did not play a single snap in a 22-8 loss to the Denver Broncos. He played more significantly in Sunday's 20-12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Jolley had one catch for 26 yards but has tried not to get too enormously hung up on inconsistent playing time.
"They didn't really come up and say anything to me," Jolley said. "It's a business. I understand what they're doing. They have to try to figure out what works best for the offense. I try not to take it personal. It's just like last year. I try to stay even-keeled and keep a level head."
It's no secret that Jolley excels as a receiver but since he went to a school that specializes in throwing the ball, his blocking skills are far from a finished product. Keep in mind; Jolley was originally recruited by BYU as a quarterback.
"I think I've got better," Jolley said of his blocking skills.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com