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Raiders Offense 2023: Is Josh Jacobs due for regression?

Running back’s 2022 workload could hurt the Raiders in 2023

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Josh Jacobs' contract dispute with the Las Vegas Raiders is approaching a turning point. July 17th deadline for the franchise tag approaches, and they still seem far apart on a new deal.

Jacobs is coming off a career year where he ran for 1653 yards and 12 touchdowns. According to PFF, he forced 90 missed tackles, leading the NFL with 3.40 yards after contact. He displayed his effectiveness as a three-down back adding 53 receptions in the passing game and being effective as a blocker. Jacobs had 393 touches last season as the workhorse running back.

The production from last season and over his career has put the Raiders in a tough position. At just 24 years old, Jacobs should have a lot left in the tank before he reaches the running back wall. There have been bad contracts recently with players not working, such as Le’Veon Bell. There are instances where the players live up to the contract, like Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb.

One of the concerns with signing Jacobs to a long-term deal is his workload in 2022. Jacobs was the seventh running back since 2013 to have more than 320 carries in a season. Examining the following seasons of those backs, the numbers don’t give confidence in Jacobs repeating in 2023.

When looking at the table above, you can see major drop-offs in key rushing stats. A big one is games played where they missed an average of 5.7 games the next season. A few players regarded as the best running backs in the sport have felt the regression of a heavy workload.

If Jacobs is serious about sitting out the season, it didn’t help Leveon Bell, who still experienced regression after missing all of 2018. Bell was able to play in all 16 games, but the numbers were far from the caliber of player he was before that.

The most recent was Jonathan Taylor, an all-pro in 2021 but rushed for 950 fewer yards in 2022. His stats were down in every category after appearing to be the next great running back in the NFL.

There are examples of the players bouncing back after the regression, with Demarco Murray returning to form in 2016. Henry had a strong year in 2022, finishing with over 1500 yards rushing for the third time in his career.

The outlook for Jacobs in 2023 puts pressure on Zamir White and the other running backs on the roster. They are going to have to step up and contribute for the Raiders to be successful. In the end, Jacobs could prove to be an outlier and have back-to-back seasons carrying a heavy load. However, he is fighting against history.