With 1,653 rushing yards last season, Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs totaled more yardage on the ground than any other player league-wide – by more than 100 yards, at that. Per Pro Football Focus, no runner caused more forced missed tackles in 2022 than Jacobs, who escaped 90 would-be tackles. During a Week 12 duel at Seattle, the 25-year-old back broke out an 86-yard walk-off touchdown; the longest run of the season throughout the NFL. It came as no surprise when Jacobs earned first-team All-Pro honors at the season’s end.
Yet, the team still isn’t sold on giving their starting running back a long-term deal.
Although Raider Nation has hopes of Josh Jacobs returning to defend his rushing title, that may not be how the situation plays out. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the reality is the Silver and Black may be without their All-Pro running back – potentially for good. Is that something the Raiders are prepared for?
Thanks to last year’s draft, Las Vegas has two young talents at the position waiting for an opportunity.
A New Era For The Raiders?
Josh McDaniels is – and has been – a fan of Jacobs’ game. When McDaniels first arrived in Las Vegas last offseason, prior to having any experience coaching Jacobs, the new Raiders head coach sang praises of his new running back. “Excited to have an opportunity to coach this guy,” McDaniels stated at the annual NFL Combine.
Of course, that didn’t stop him and Dave Ziegler from drafting two running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Las Vegas had traded both their first and second-round picks to Green Bay to acquire Davante Adams, leaving the team with picks 90 and 126 as their two-highest draft selections. The Raiders were content with staying at 90 to make their first pick of the draft, but had no intentions of waiting until 126 for their second. Instead, they moved up to 122, selecting Georgia runner Zamir White.
Moving up four spots may seem insignificant, but it proved to be critical for ensuring White’s availability. Now at 122, the Raiders were able to leap past their division rivals from Los Angeles, who selected running back Isaiah Spiller at 123.
UCLA’s Brittain Brown was the choice at 250, becoming the second back who the McDaniels-Ziegler tandem added through the draft. Like Zamir, Brown was selected one pick before a division rival was on the clock, with that same rival also selecting a runner. While Brown went to the Raiders at 250, Kansas City added Isiah Pacheco to their roster with the 251st pick.
Are either of these two ready to take over should Josh Jacobs not reach an agreement with Las Vegas?
The first of the Raiders’ RB draft-mates: Zamir White
White didn’t play much during his rookie season, but Raider Nation did get to see the highs and lows of his game.
Let’s start with the lows.
There were three separate contests where White finished with negative rushing yards. Throughout the 11 contests Las Vegas lost last season, the 28-year-old totaled 6 yards on 9 attempts; an average of 0.67 yards per carry. Escaping tackles was an area of concern as well, with Zamir only being able to dodge an incoming tackler twice.
Luckily, the fourth-round pick was able to boost his averages with a high clip of explosive plays. That, along with his team-high pass blocking grade at his position of 77.4 – which ranked 14th-highest among all players out of the backfield league-wide – were the highs.
Syncing Zamir White’s analytics with Josh Jacobs’ carries
Mathematically, it’s easy to compare what Jacobs did in his 339 rushing attempts to what White was on pace to do had he matched that number of carries. Since Zamir ran with the ball 17 times, we can multiply everything by 20 to get 340; one more carry than Jacobs totaled.
Taking it back to the aforementioned two escaped tackles, we can quickly see the Raiders’ rookie was on pace to finish with 40. Not only is this less than half of Jacobs’ 90, but it would’ve sat him at 18th-highest in the NFL. Considering only Derrick Henry – who finished with the 3rd-most forced missed tackles – posted more than 340 rushing attempts last season, it’s concerning that White would’ve sank to 18 in this category with the second-most handoffs league-wide.
It’s not all bad, though.
Not long ago, I touched on White’s explosive abilities. In just 17 carries, the 2021 National Champion was able to break off three runs of 10+ yards, and two runs of 15+ yards. If we sync these numbers with Jacobs’ carries, we get 60 10+ yard runs and 40 runs that go at least 15 yards. Both of these figures noticeably top Jacobs’ 41 10+ yard carries and 15 15+ yard carries. In fact, White would’ve been in a league of his own.
Nick Chubb totaled more 10+ yard plays on the ground than any other player, finishing the ’22 season with 47. Following White’s current trajectory, the rookie would’ve been set to finish with 60; 13 more than the league-leader. On runs of at least 15 yards, Chubb once again led the pack with 23. White’s pace of 40 blows that number out of the water.
Naturally, this isn’t to say White was going to reach these marks had he been given 340 handoffs. When your time on the field is more scarce, your legs are fresher. Regardless, it’s a fun activity to show how explosive the former Bulldog was last season.
The second of the Raiders’ RB draft-mates: Brittain Brown
White didn’t play much during the ’22 regular season, but Brown didn’t play at all. We did, however, get a good look at the 25-year-old during preseason.
On 34 rushing attempts, Brown totaled 152 yards for an average of 4.5 per carry. The seventh-round pick also added 37 yards through the air on seven receptions. Altogether, this gave him a rushing grade of 72.2, with a receiving grade of 65.4.
Brown was able to break off a 10+ yard run on two occasions, notching a 36-yarder as his longest carry. More impressively, he was able to force 10 missed tackles on his 34 handoffs.
As fate would have it, we’re able to easily scale Browns’ numbers to Jacobs’, just the same as White. By multiplying Browns’ carries by 10, we get 340; again, one less carry than Jacobs had. This would mean the Raiders rookie was on pace to force 100 missed tackles, beating the team’s RB1 by 10.
I get it – Brown, unlike Jacobs, was posting these numbers in the preseason. It’s still a testament to his elusiveness, though.
However you wish to look at it, there’s certainly potential with Brittain Brown, just as there is with Zamir White. Will either of these two replicate Josh Jacobs’ production, should they be called upon to start this upcoming season? Truthfully, it’s highly unlikely, even as a combined unit. Will the duo be ready to contribute if needed? For the most part, it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t be.
*Top Photo: CBS Sports