Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has a long history of pass-catching running backs. From Kevin Faulk and Shane Vereen to James White, a reliable running back who adds to the passing game has been crucial for his offensive success.
In 2022 we haven’t seen the running backs too involved in the offense. According to SIS, in Weeks 1-10, the Raiders were 14th in targets to running backs this season. In the last two weeks, the Raiders have targeted running back 18 times with much success.
One of the bright spots has been Ameer Abdullah. The player was an afterthought before the season but snuck his way onto the roster by beating out Kenyan Drake. The former Nebraska Cornhusker is starting to exhibit why they made that decision.
Vs. the Seattle Seahawks, Abdullah converted two first downs, including a touchdown on his 39 yards receiving. On the third down play early in the game, he helped the offense stay on schedule on the designed pick route out of the backfield. Abdullah has excellent hands and helps convert the first down for the offense.
On his touchdown reception, Abdullah is running what McDaniels calls a rail route. It is a designed double move where the running back converts a flat into a wheel. Abdullah displays his route-running ability and dusts the safety, and Carr has enough time to hit Abdullah for the touchdown.
Curl/Wheel on the touchdown to Abdullah. Abdullah sells the flat route before turning upfield. Good Job by the OL picking up the sim blitz and giving Carr time. Had Hollins open backside as well. pic.twitter.com/ACJb8u9rTI— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) November 29, 2022
Of course, the star of the running back room is Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was profiled as a third-down back coming out of Alabama, who used him in the passing attack. We didn’t see much of it during his first three seasons, but he is starting to take off and take the crown for best in the NFL. The former first-round pick has nine receptions for 125 yards since Week 11.
McDaniels unleashed Jacobs and how we might see him in the passing game in the future. The raiders are in an empty set with Jacobs motioned outside the numbers. After the snap, Jacobs doesn’t move initially. With Jakob Johnson and Foster Moreau clearing space, Jacobs runs a slant. Carr hits him for an easy 28 yards.
Late in the game, Jacobs has been clutch as well. Vs. the Broncos were able to hit Jacobs on a wheel route out of the backfield. The Raiders run mesh/wheel, which was made famous by Chip Kelly. The design pick route helps free up Jacobs as he dusts the linebacker for a massive gain.
Josh McDaniels busted out the Chip Kelly Mesh/wheel on the big play to Jacobs. Subtle pick from Hollins, and Jacobs does the rest. pic.twitter.com/JArZ4CWOFa— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) November 22, 2022
Jacobs runs an angle route out of the backfield on the drive to send the game into overtime. Carr hits him for the checkdown, and Jacobs takes it for 14 yards and a first down.
With Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow on injury reserve, the Raiders needed to find an answer to keep the passing game moving. The running backs have stepped up hugely and helped give Carr a safety net.