Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs has been controversial since he was chosen 24th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The famous “don't take a running back in the first round cliché” became prevalent when media experts were handing out draft grades.
Jacob's rookie season laid to rest the talking points for a while, however. During his freshman campaign, Jacobs put out dominant performances with 1150 yards rushing and 4.8 YPC. According to Next Gen stats, Jacobs was fourth in the NFL for rush yards over expectation per attempt. It was a memorable opening season for the Alabama back to say the least. But the past two seasons are underwhelming. If you combine both years, Jacobs averages 3.9 yards per carry and only 62 yards per game. In 2019, he was averaging 88 yards per game for comparison.
Jacob's struggles this year could be attributed to a weaker offensive line. According to ESPN, the Raiders are 29th in run block win rate, with the group struggling to get a push and allowing the linebacker to shoot gaps consistently. However, Jacobs has lost the complete trust they can get it done because of their struggles. Instead of finding holes to fight for tough yards, it has forced him to bounce runs he that shouldn't.
The Chiefs game below is a great example. Is the play blocked up beautifully? No, but it might not be a fumble for a touchdown if he fights for the three yards instead of bouncing.
Against the Broncos, a different player stepped onto the field. We saw Josh Jacobs from 2019 on plenty of runs. He played aggressively while bouncing when he needed to and fighting for ugly yards.
The run after the second drive of the second half displays a different Jacobs. Raiders call inside zone, and the play is blocked average with not a ton of room. Instead of bouncing and finding a big play, Jacobs played behind his pads. The play ends with a successful five yards.
He finished the battle with his first 100 yard game of the season. One of the best areas Jacobs shined was his elusiveness and breaking tackles. He made players regularly miss in the open field on Sunday.
Watch below as he gives Bradley Chubb the business and gets extra yardage on the inside zone slice.
The Raiders need a rushing attack with teams playing two high coverages to stop the offense from creating explosive plays. Since Week 6, the Raiders are 29th, facing eight men in the box. If they can make them pay in the run game, it can open everything downfield for the passing game.
The Raiders offense hasn't had a run game all season. But nobody will care if they pick it up in January.