Rumors began last week that Marshawn Lynch would be retiring. His absence from the Raiders would leave a hole at the running back position. The front office signed Isaiah Crowell in free agency, a back who has proven to be a very good runner but too limited on passing downs to be considered a feature back.
Jalen Richard was also tendered a 2nd round tag as a restricted free agent that basically locked him up in the team’s plans. No other team wanted to give up a 2nd round pick for Richard who is a competent 3rd down back.
Jon Gruden has gone on record verbalizing a desire for a feature back, someone who can run the ball, catch passes, and pass protect. There are few running backs who possess this combination of skills and there was only one in the NFL draft who could do all three at a high level. Let’s look at Raiders first round pick Josh Jacobs and what he brings to the offense.
Hard nosed runner
Jacobs is a man who proved very tough for SEC defenses to take down. He shows great burst turning upfield on this run and delivers a hard blow to the safety who is attempting to tackle him. The best backs finish off their runs and punish defenses, Jacobs is the type of player who can potentially wear down NFL defenders.
This is a great run against Mississippi State. In a 3rd and 1 situation, Jacobs needs to get this first down when he is met at the line of scrimmage by an unblocked linebacker. Jacobs lowers his pad level and explodes his hips through contact, keeping his feet churning. He also shows the awareness to throw a perfectly timed stiff arm at the defensive end who comes after.
Effort should be something you can easily identify when watching a player. His tape should leave no questions about his passion for the game. Seeing Jacobs refuse to go down, driving and pumping his feet through contact is a very encouraging sign for Raiders fans.
Jacobs has great ability to deliver blows, power through tackle attempts, and finish runs with strength and power. He also has a few moves up his sleeve for making defenders miss altogether. He combines his hard nose running style with an ability to take dramatic cutting angles. His ankle and hip flexibility to turn and then explode in another direction is a trait that will help him gain yards in the NFL.
One of the best 2 yard runs you’ll ever see. Jacobs once again is able to change direction before the defender can adjust but also has the explosiveness to get to the goal line with defenders closing fast.
When Jacobs takes the hand-off he is facing the sideline, he is able to plant, turn his hips, and burst at a 90 degree angle without losing momentum, accelerating into the middle of an unsuspecting defense. He also has some niftiness in the open field, breaking two tackle attempts before taking the last guy for a ride.
This is a designed screen where Jacobs reverse pivots back inside. He shows the compact footwork and acceleration to take two dramatic cutting angles. One before the catch and the second after the catch.
The most famous clip of Jacobs perhaps is this example of him running the seam route from the backfield. His 4.6 40 time doesn’t seem to affect him from getting downfield in a hurry. Alabam liked to run this concept with Jacobs because he is a great pass catcher and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The best NFL offenses right now: Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Patriots, each have a running back who can run these vertical routes down field. Hopefully we can see some more plays like this run Jacobs in Silver and Black.
The least glamorous but perhaps most important aspect of running back play is protecting the franchise in pass protection. Running backs who are a liability in pass protection won’t stay on the field in passing situations as a result. Jacobs shows the willingness to be a great blocker, he identifies the rush threat and attacks his man with great effort. He needs to do a better in this rep of squaring his shoulders and extending his arms.
Again we see Jacobs do a great job of identifying the free runner and attacks him, giving his quarterback more room to work with. He lowers his shoulder too much in pass protection and needs to work on his technique but his willingness and power are there to become a dominant pass protector.
Not often do you see players who run with the power and hitting ability that Josh Jacobs possesses who are also great receivers. He is a rare back for this reason and worth a first round pick. In the last 4 years there have been 8 teams who selected a running back in the first round. 6 of those teams went to the playoffs within the following two seasons. The Chargers made it after 3 seasons and the Giants still have a season to go since they took Saquon Barkley last year. The impact a young feature back can have on a team cannot be understated and often they improve the entire offense with dynamic play.