Last Thursday, the Raiders made Josh Jacobs the top back selected in the draft at 24 overall in the first round. They touted him as the complete package who could stay on the field all three downs due to his ability to block and catch passes out of the backfield as well as be a power runner.
True, Jacobs did display all those skills at Alabama, but he never did so as a workhorse back and Jon Gruden wasn’t going to go all in and say the young back was ready to take on a full load or even if he was capable of it due to Jacobs being a part time back for the Crimson Tide.
Already on the Raiders was Isaiah Crowell who is a proven NFL starter who fell into their laps essentially when he was cast off by the Jets after they spent big money to sign Le’Veon Bell to a free agent deal. Days after Jacobs was drafted, Crowell tore his Achilles in offseason workouts and was lost for the season, ending what could have been a nice one-two punch with him and Jacobs.
“Isiah [Crowell] came in here on a one-year contract and I was hoping this would be a launching pad for him to really showcase what he can do,” said Gruden. “And it’s very unfortunate and we wish him the best. I mean the way he got hurt was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a freak injury.”
With Crowell down, predictions for Jacobs’ rookie season shot up. Fantasy gurus began licking their chops at the possibilities of him being a workhorse, churning out yards and points.
The Raiders had ‘break glass in case of emergency’ option sitting on his couch though. They simply phoned up last year’s starter Doug Martin and said come on back in.
“Fortunately Doug Martin has been very interested in coming back,” Gruden continued. “He led out team in rushing and Doug will be able to I think be a great mentor to Jacobs. He knows the system, he produced in the system. Doug’s had some real highs and some real lows in this league. And he’ll be a great resource for our young back and he can also still play. So, we’re happy to have Doug back and obviously disappointed for Isaiah.”
Mentor, yes. But starting ahead of the back who Gruden was reportedly so excited to draft at 24 that he supposedly wanted to trade up to make sure he got him and had to be calmed down several times by Mike Mayock? Starting over that guy? That’s what Gruden would like us to believe.
“Doug Martin was a three-down back last year,” Gruden said when asked if Jacobs would be the team’s three-down back right away. “He finished the season quite well. We’re comfortable with Doug.
“We’ll see what happens with [Josh] Jacobs. Jacobs has got a lot to learn in our system and he’s gotta beat out some good backs.”
All right. So, not handing the youngster anything. Making him feel like he has to work for it. And asking last year’s starter who averaged 4.3 yards per carry as the starter to step back into that role may not be the choice you’d expect from a team that just spent a first round pick on a running back, but it isn’t terribly far-fetched.
But, wait, did he say “Backs”? Plural? As in more than one? Come on now.
“I think Jalen Richard is really exciting. He wants to be a three-down back,” Gruden added. “We just paid him a lot of money because of his skills. And I think DeAndre Washington who was hurt most of last year is also going to contribute.”
Uh, yeah. Ok.
Oh, and let’s not forget about last year’s preseason phenom Chris Warren III now. Gruden said he left him out, joking he tries “not to give Chris any sugar.”
“I like Chris Warren,” Gruden said. “He’s 260 pounds, he can run, he had a very good preseason for us, and he’s learned a lot about our offense and about this profession and he’s got some pretty good genes. His dad was one hell of a back for the Seahawks, so we’ll see where he is. We’re anxious to put him back in circulation as well.”
It’s certainly that time of year. When Gruden keeps his players’ hopes up that they can all be the guy while trying to keep us guessing about what he will do at certain positions.
Hey, who knows, maybe Marshawn Lynch will be back too? He said he would come back if they want him. So, why the hell not. Let’s really make this a competition.