When Josh McDaniels first arrived in Las Vegas, he knew he had a special running back in Josh Jacobs. Part of that was watching Jacobs produce in the NFL, and another part was McDaniels remembering his scouting report on the Alabama runner. McDaniels had always thought highly of the Raiders’ tailback, but not even he expected the season that Jacobs would eventually have.
1,653 rushing yards and 90 forced missed tackles later, both of which stood as league-highs in 2022, Josh Jacobs was named a first-team All-Pro; a fact McDaniels himself seemed to forget heading into the 2023 season.
After all, McDaniels and his partner in crime, general manager Dave Ziegler, couldn’t even get a long-term deal done with Jacobs, despite the 25-year-old waiting in his car outside the building at the deadline with aspirations of reaching an agreement.
From there on, it continued to seem as if McDaniels forgot Jacobs was an All-Pro just last year.
In eight weeks [under McDaniels], the Raiders’ premier back totaled at least 20 carries only twice; 25% of games this year. Last season, Jacobs was given the football 20+ times in nine contests – more than half of his 17 outings.
More times than not, these games resulted in wins.
In 2022, the Raiders won six of their nine games (66%) when handing Jacobs the rock on 20+ running plays. This season, with McDaniels at the helm, Las Vegas won both contests where Jacobs carried the football at least 20 times.
How could Josh McDaniels overlook this theme? No matter; Antonio Pierce and Bo Hardegree didn’t.
Under the new [interim] coaches in Sin City, Jacobs has been asked to carry the ball often. This has led to his best games of the season in back-to-back weeks, with the Raiders being 2-0 in the meantime.
Antonio Pierce and Bo Hardegree are using Josh Jacobs frequently, and uncoincidentally, the Raiders are winning
Although the Raiders finished the Josh McDaniels-era with a 9-16 record, the team was 8-3 in games where Josh Jacobs recorded 20+ rushing attempts. This is a fact Antonio Pierce is well aware of.
In both Weeks 9 and 10, during Pierce’s two weeks as the Raiders’ [interim] head coach, Josh Jacobs carried the ball at least 25 times. Against the Giants in Week 9, Jacobs took 25 handoffs for a then-season-high 98 yards on the ground. The following contest, against the Jets, Jacobs set a new high with 116 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
Finally; the Raiders are using a first-team All-Pro like a.. first-team All-Pro.
And Jacobs looks much better as a result. During the last two weeks, the former first-round pick has totaled 11 forced missed tackles; the second-most league-wide. For comparison, Jacobs logged 11 forced missed tackles in all eight games he played under Josh McDaniels this season.
Jacobs is having fun again. Now, he has a say in which running plays the team is dialing up.
When the Raiders keep giving the rock to Josh Jacobs, they win football games. Such a trend existed with McDaniels at the helm as well. Hopefully it continues as the Dolphins and Chiefs are up next.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri