Seeing running back Josh Jacobs start the preseason opener is one thing. But seeing the Las Vegas Raiders bell cow back from the last two seasons play in the team’s second series against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game was another.
The reaction on social media — unsurprisingly — was varied from shock to acceptance.
Josh Jacobs starting in the Hall of Fame game speaks volumes.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 5, 2022
Several sure-fire starters suited up in full dress and had pads on (left tackle Kolton Miller, quarterback Derek Carr and wide receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow) and the notion is Jacobs is in the same category as those aforementioned players. Nonetheless, Jacobs started and churned out 30 yards on five carries (6.0 average per carry with a long of 12 yards) and caught two passes for 14 yards. The XX-year tailback exhibited power and burst against a Jaguars defense that played their first-team group.
No matter the reaction, this is the Raiders’ new standard operating procedure with Josh McDaniels at the helm.
“It was everybody ready to go. We made the decisions that we thought were the right decisions for our team, some based on depth, some based on wanted to get guys the opportunities to get in there,” the Raiders head coach said in the postgame press conference. “I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in preseason. There are a lot of things that happen when you’re tackled and getting hit that you can’t simulate in practice. I think all our guys had the ball tonight, all our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and got tackled. We can’t really simulate or rep that in practice.”
In total, five running backs got carries (minus veteran Brandon Bolden) with rooking Zamir White leading the way with 11 carries for 52 yards (4.7 average, long of 14). Austin Walter had eight totes for 49 yards and a touchdown (6.1 average, long of 22) while Kenyan Drake (five carries, 9 yards (1.8, three) and Ameer Abdullah (two carries, seven yards, and a touchdown (3.5, eight) rounded out the group. That showcases perhaps the intent of a running back-by-committee approach McDaniels is taking come the regular season.
Let’s hit the Quick Slants as fast as the Jaguars offense went three-and-out during several series Thursday night:
—The Raiders offense drove right down the field against the Jaguars during their opening drive. It was a series that showcased a deep pass to start (an ode to Raiders hall of fame wideout Cliff Branch that fluttered due to pressure, but Jarrett Stidham’s pass fell into the waiting hands of wide receiver Keelan Cole for 31 yards) and was methodical with good tempo. The drive did stall on the Jaguars’ 14-yard line giving folk a view of Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson who appears to be in regular-season form already.
—Stidham showed great command and poise of the Raiders offense as he drew the start finishing 8-of-15 for 96 yards with zero touchdowns and interceptions and absorbing three sacks. There were times where he couldn’t avoid the pressure — Brandon Parker, who primarily plays and practices at right tackle drew the start at left tackle was beaten soundly several times — but overall, he got the team in and of huddles. He even showed in-game progression scrambling for a touchdown when his reads failed to avoid another stalled red zone trip.
“I thought he got off to a decent start. We had a couple times down there where we got stopped in the red zone early which those can come back to haunt you if you don’t put those in,” McDaniels said. “But I thought he made some good decisions, threw the ball away a couple times when it wasn’t there, escaped out of the pocket on the one touchdown run. Generally, he operated the offense well. I thought Nick [Mullins] did the same thing. They each had a little bit of duress that they had to deal with and again, I’m happy that you get to do that in a preseason game because really you get the opportunity to see if they’re going to make a good decision. They didn’t turn it over tonight, which I was happy about that, and they made some good plays.”
—Parker’s excursion at left tackle was a forgettable one. He had trouble keeping pace with speed and maintaining anchor against power. Good news? He’s a right tackle by trade and with Miller out, someone had to man the blindside. It’ll be interesting to see if Miller plays in preseason and, in turn, who mans the left tackle spot. Parker at left did give Alex Leatherwood the start at right, though.
—One Raiders defender who flashed numerous times on screen was rookie cornerback Bryce Cosby. The Ball State product (No. 44) showed aggression, cover skills and tackling ability finishing with three total tackles and a pass defensed. Let’s see if he can continue to flash in preseason.
Bryce Cosby flying around and making a couple of plays on that drive— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 5, 2022
—Rookie quarterback Chase Garbers got into the mix in the fourth quarter completing four of his six passes for 35 yards while absorbing a sack. A lot of ifs here, but if the Cal product continues to show well, he may merit a 53-man roster spot over Mullens (8-of-11 for 72 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, one sack) if Stidham indeed becomes QB2.
—Rookie linebacker Darien Butler led the team in tackles with six total (three solo). Keep an eye on the undrafted free agent out of Arizona State as camp and preseason continue. Linebacker coach Antonio Pierce is familiar with Butler due to their time as Sun Devils and Butler could carve out a roster spot with a depleted linebacker depth chart.