The strife that was Josh Jacobs absence from Las Vegas Raiders OTAs and training camp is gone. Now all that remains for the elite running back and the team is prepping for the season-opening date with their AFC West foe Denver Broncos Week 1.
Jacobs and the Silver and Black are getting in-tune with one another after a lengthy absence that was quelled by an adjusted, one-year contract the tailback signed last weekend. The pact, worth up to $12 million if all incentives are reached, gets not only Jacobs back in the Raiders’ fold, but it also gives the running back another opportunity this coming season showcase his wares.
Jacobs return is both good for the player and the team. He provides the Las Vegas offense with much-needed productivity and stability. And if Jacobs shows out once more in 2023, his value and eventual price point only increases. Him cementing himself further as an elite running back, specifically the the 2022 campaign — that saw Jacobs lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,653), yards from scrimmage ($2,053), and touches (393) — wasn’t a fluke, will help the Raiders offense attain all-important balance.
“ Yeah, there’s nobody in our building that doesn’t love him,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said when asked if Jacobs’ return uplifts everyone on the team. “Coaches, players, support staff; everybody’s excited to see him. I think he’s excited to be here. Loves being a Raider. So, yeah, it’s exciting. Whenever you get a player back, whether it’s from injury or something like this, it always gives you a little bit of a boost.”
The boost Jacobs gives to McDaniels’ offense can’t be understated. An excellent blend of power, speed, and vision from his 5-foot-10 and 223-pound frame, the 25-year-old is a workhorse running back who showed he gets stronger with every carry during his outstanding 2022 season. He’s an elusive runner than can make something out of nothing by eluding defenders, finding the crease, and hitting it with both power and speed.
Not only that, but Jacobs is a willing pass blocker when called to protect the quarterback and showed he can catch the rock out of the backfield, too.
That wasn’t something readily seen in his absence as second-year tailback Zamir White served as the primary running back during the preseason slate and the results were very much mixed. While White may be bigger and showcase more speed and power, the vision aspect — integral to running back success — and deviceless are very much a work in progress. He’s a power back compared and if the hole and crease isn’t there or if the Raiders run more zone, White doesn’t show well on film.
A lot of Zamir White's issues are he is a power back, and they keep running outside zone.— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) August 27, 2023
2 out of his 3 runs were outside zone, and he struggles to read things. Thought he could have bounced this one.
They ran power primarily vs. the Rams, and he looked better. pic.twitter.com/AA4Mp8o9oG
This is troublesome in the sense that eventually Jacobs will need a breather and a spell back must come in his place and if it’s White, it may limit what the Raiders can run until the Georgia product assimilates to the offense.
Nonetheless, despite missing the majority of the offseason program, McDaniels isn’t concerned about Jacobs fitting right back in with the team. Expect him to dominate the carries in the running back room once more and opportunities for other half backs to be minimal at best. The 24th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft arrived to practice in shape and ready to go.
“Physically, I didn’t miss a step. So, I definitely can say that,” Jacobs noted. “The biggest thing for me really was coming back and mentally just with the playbook and everything, with the new plays and all of that, I didn’t want to be behind. But when I came in, today I didn’t have any errors.”
His Raiders teammates are glad to have Jacobs back in the fold. The running back himself was asked about what he’s seen from the team so far as he’s returned to practice.
“Yeah man, we got a lot faster, definitely seen that. We definitely got a lot faster. We got a lot of guys that love the game, and you’ve got a lot of guys with high IQs, and that’s the first thing I’ve noticed,” Jacobs commented. “I think I saw (Marcus) Epps make a play today and I was like, ‘Damn.’ He got from one side of the field to the other and made a play that we thought was a touchdown. So, I mean just to be able to see that and obviously Maxx being the leader that he is on that defense to see him take another leap, I mean it’s just been crazy to me. It’s got me really excited for the season.”
Jacobs’ workload in the season opener against Denver is very much up in the air. Game circumstance will dictate how it goes. If Las Vegas wants to set the tone, it’ll give Jacobs the ball and allow No. 8 to apply the mood. And nothing quite fires up an offensive line than having a thoroughbred ballcarrier gashing the opposition. Especially a highly motivated one looking to show his football team he’s worth every bit of his one-year pact and even more with a potential long-term deal.