Jon Gruden is taking the game back to the 90’s behind this power run philosophy as he rides the wheels of rookie Josh Jacobs.
Many pronounced the Oakland Raiders dead before the season even started. Between one of the toughest NFL schedules ever, and off-field drama most didn’t expect the Silver and Black to do much in Gruden’s second season. But, people are now realizing that maybe Gruden isn’t quite as crazy as they thought. The team suffered a tough loss last week against the Green Bay Packers, but they have firmly established what their identity is on offense: a ground-and-pound team led by rookie running back Josh Jacobs.
Oakland Raiders are Building the Identity Jon Gruden Wants Behind Josh Jacobs,
Jacobs has been every bit what the Raiders hoped when they took him with the 24th overall pick in the 2018 draft. He flew under the radar in the offseason despite the team being on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Most of this was because of the media swarm surrounding wide receiver Antonio Brown.
After Brown’s antics led to his release, many wondered what it would do to the Raiders offense and their locker room. Those questions were answered in prime-time Week 1 when the team took on the Denver Broncos. Jacobs led the charge, running for 85 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 28-yard catch.
He fell just one yard short of the century mark Week 2, only getting 12 totes with the team playing mostly from behind against the high-octane Kansas City Chiefs. He suffered a bump in the road Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings though. Reports were that Jacobs had the flu, and he even posted on social media that he had lost ten pounds due to his sickness. This limited him to just 44 yards on ten carries.
Since then, it has been T”Josh Jacobs show” as the team’s identity has taken form. Starting Week 4, he has had at least 100 yards from scrimmage and the team’s offense has gone through him. Though the team currently sits at 3-3, they have looked a lot better than most expected despite a historically brutal road schedule. Some think Gruden was able to adapt his offense on the fly, as the team is down wide receivers. But looking back at his style, this was probably his plan all along.
Gruden’s last season with the team in his original stint had the team rushing a lot more than they passed. Rich Gannon attempted 473 passes. Yet, between all runners, Oakland rushed 520 times. This was the complete opposite last season, as the team had issues on their offensive line, and struggled to get a run game going after Marshawn Lynch went down. 2018’s Raiders only had 387 rushing attempts compared to a whopping 556 passes.
It is no wonder the offense looked completely out of sync most of the year. The word “passing league” is thrown around almost promiscuously nowadays, however, some of the better teams have a much better balance. Oakland was one of 14 teams last season who passed over 60 percent of the time. Of those teams, only three made the playoffs. On the other hand, eight of the ten teams with the lowest pass percentage made the playoffs.
Gruden is often laughed at for talking about wanting to take the team back in time. But when it comes down to it, smash-mouth football has the offense clicking much better than it was last year. The team has attempted 203 passes compared to 169 rushes. Gruden would probably like the numbers to shift further over, but it is progress. It also puts the Silver and Black at the sixth lowest passing percentage in the NFL.
The Next Steps
Now that Gruden’s offense is starting to take form, it is time to start focusing on the defense. Oakland has key pieces of their offensive line locked up for years. Darren Waller was already extended at tight end, and Foster Moreau is a promising rookie at the position as well. Sure, the team needs a true number one wide receiver, and the jury is still out on Derek Carr, but as the team has shown so far in 2019, the offense can function mostly as-is.
Oakland is 13th in offensive yards per game and sixth in rushing yards per game. The defense is where there is a ton of room to grow. The Raiders are 24th in yards allowed per game. Gruden and Paul Guenther are doing their best to overhaul the roster, but lack depth, and have dealt with injuries to key players like Johnathan Abram, and the suspension of linebacker Vontaze Burfict.