In the 2019 NFL draft, the Las Vegas Raiders opted to select Alabama running back Josh Jacobs with one of their three first-round selections. In 2020, the Silver and Black elected to bring in another member of the Crimson Tide with one of their two first-round picks. Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III reunites with his former college teammate and the two will have the opportunity to change the entire dynamic of the Raider offense.
The Other Raiders Pipeline
The Raiders have made a strong case for Clemson University to be their football factory. With five selections in the past two drafts from the ACC powerhouse, the connection is evident, but it may not be the strongest one within the organization. The Crimson Tide is the one that has managed to have two of their top prospects selected in the first round in back-to-back years.
In 2020, Jacobs is now reunited at the NFL level with former teammate Henry Ruggs III.
Henry Ruggs caught 98 passes at Alabama
24 of them went for touchdownspic.twitter.com/IENn0zsaLS
— PFF (@PFF) April 21, 2020
What the two achieved together on game days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama could potentially be a mere preview of what’s to come in Sin City.
Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs III were teammates under Alabama head coach Nick Saban during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and they wreaked havoc for opposing defenses when on the field together.
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) September 22, 2018
The play above offers one example of an unnatural play design Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is chomping at the bit to author for their offense in 2020. Whether it is a pass or run play, the reunion of the two will open up opportunities for their teammates as a result of opponents respecting their game changing prowess. Opposing defenses will be forced to assign more than one defender to cover Ruggs, resulting in plays like the one below becoming a common fixture:
In the Silver and Black’s passing attack, Ruggs’ elite speed will be a major catalyst for opposing defenders to vacate space in the middle of the field, even if he is not the primary target. For that reason, Foster Moreau, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Jason Witten will be able to work in between the hashes with a little more freedom in 2020. Below, Ruggs III works the sideline and impedes the defensive back’s ability to work his way back to prevent Alabama tight end Hale Hentges from scoring.
#22 Texas A&M venait de revenir Ã 4 points sur un superbe FG de K Seth Small… #1 Alabama rÃ©agit immÃ©diatement avec la seconde passe de TD de QB Tua Tagovailoa, cette fois-ci Ã destination de TE Hale Hentges.
Alabama 21, Texas A&M 10pic.twitter.com/Rwg8Cpwyd9
— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) September 22, 2018
Last but not least, the addition of speed on the outside will lift the burden from the Raiders rushing attack, as opposing defensive coordinator’s will think twice about overloading the box at the line of scrimmage with defenders as seen below.
Derek Carr audibles using â€œMARK DAVIS CLAYTON KERSHAW!â€ – run off tackle left to Josh Jacobs. Kershaw is a lefty… pic.twitter.com/TyMLUZJ4qg
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 15, 2019
Teams such as the Jets are a reminder that if you are an offense that does not consistently push the ball down, opposing defenses will not respect the fact your passing game exists beyond check downs to running backs and tight ends in the flats. Opposing safeties and linebackers alike will have to account for Ruggs on every play, giving the Tulsa, Oklahoma native more room to maneuver at the line of scrimmage.
.@Raiders @iAM_JoshJacobs v @nyjets and the #1 run defense in football played 60 minutes of pure hell. This is a new â€œGang Greenâ€. And itâ€™s beautiful to watch . Organized Chaos Squad. That dang Greg Williams is at it again. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/c8On5NGMlR
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 25, 2019
The offense for the Silver and Black now possesses the tools to become lethal when both Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs are on the field. It is now up to Gruden to make the most of their talents in terms of play design.
The Las Vegas front office has added a host of Clemson Tigers to the roster, but the pairing of two former Alabama players has the potential to change the outlook of the team’s offense for year’s to come. Gruden found his explosive workhorse at running back last draft. This year, the coach believes he found the receiver to match in the aerial assault.
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) April 25, 2020
The explosiveness in Raiders offense is now present, it is a matter of time until it is unleashed.
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Top Photo: Streeter Leecka/Getty Images