Josh Jacobs looks to build on rookie season for Raiders
Josh Jacobs impressed about everyone other than himself his rookie season.
Jacobs set the Raiders rookie rushing record, broke more tackles than any other back in the league and ranked third in the NFL in yards rushing per game.
“I would grade it a ‘B,’” Jacobs said. “There’s a lot of yards that I felt like I left on the table. It’s a lot of plays, and I feel like I could’ve contributed more. ... So that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Jacobs did quite a bit in his first season out of Alabama after being drafted 24th overall with one of the picks the Raiders obtained from Chicago in the deal for Khalil Mack.
After carrying the ball 20 times a game only once in three years in college, Jacobs proved capable of carrying a heavy load in the pros.
He carried the ball 242 times in 13 games, breaking Marcus Allen’s Raiders rookie record with 1,150 yards and forcing a league-best 69 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
He did much of his work with a bum shoulder he injured early in Week 7 against Green Bay before finally shutting it down for the final three games of the season.
“He had a big year last year,” coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got to stay healthy. We need our feature back down the stretch. We were in a playoff stretch last year and didn’t have him. I think he’s got to stay wire-to-wire healthy and we have to get more out of him in the passing game, more on the field on third down. He had a great year last year and we expect more of him from this year.”
Jacobs came in the league with a reputation of being a skilled receiver, a major reason why the Raiders were willing to use a first-round pick on him.
But he didn’t get to show off that aspect of his game too much. He had 20 catches on just 27 targets as a receiver and was usually replaced on third downs by Jalen Richard.
The plan is for that not to happen as often this season when the Raiders are hoping Jacobs can become a three-down back.
“We went into it in the offseason and that was how we approached him as well. We want you to become a complete running back, we need you to get better at route-running out of the backfield, as well as route-running from an extended formation,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.
“So, that was the homework assignment in the offseason. ... That was probably the biggest area we were looking for improvement, and he can always get better in protection. That’s a big part as well. I think it’s difficult for a rookie to come in and master protection in one season, so we expected an improvement in that area as well.”
Jacobs took that criticism to heart, saying he spent much of the offseason working on honing the details of his receiving game.
He worked on running better routes out of the backfield, as well as getting off the line and beating defensive backs down the field when lined up wide.
That could add another element to Las Vegas’ offense this season.
“I kind of established the run aspect of my game,” he said. “I feel like I want to improve that even more. Also, blocking, I want to put some of that on film. Obviously, catching too. My goal is to catch at least 60 balls this year.”
That’s a lofty goal but would help elevate a Raiders offense that has failed to average 20 points per game for three straight seasons.
Only eight backs have caught at least 60 passes and ran for at least 1,000 yards in a season since 2015, with Christian McCaffrey and Le’Veon Bell each doing it twice in that span.
The only two Raiders ever to reach those marks in the same season with LaMont Jordan doing it in 2005 and Allen from 1983-85.
Jacobs believes he’s capable of doing just that.
“I don’t think I accomplished what I set out to do,” he said. “I think I put a little dent in what I wanted to prove, but I think I have a long way to go.”
NOTES: The Raiders had a day off from practice for maintenance reasons. They did hold meetings, workouts and a walkthrough. ... The Raiders signed RB Theo Riddick and LB Kyle Emanuel. The team waived LB Bryce Hager and RB William Stanback to make room on the roster.
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