Josh Jacobs Is About to Become A Star

The second year player is poised to become a top-five running back

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs’ rookie year couldn’t have gone much better. The rookie finished top ten in rushing yards, despite missing three games. Jacobs finished with 1,150 yards on the ground, which was good for eighth in the NFL. He also added seven rushing touchdowns. Jacobs’ season saw him earn runner-up for offensive rookie of the year.

While not much more could’ve been expected out of Jacobs as a rookie, the expectations for this season should be through the roof.

Josh Jacobs is going to have every opportunity to become a top-five back this season. This is for a few reasons. First, being his talent. To finish eighth in rushing yards, despite missing three games shows Jacobs’ ability as a player. His skill as a running back should only approve, as should his ability in the pass game. The weak spot for Jacobs as a rookie came on passing plays. He only had 20 catches for 166 yards. If Jacobs can improve that, then his chances at becoming a top-five back only increase.

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Jacobs finished top-ten in rushing while missing three games. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The second reason for an uptick in Jacobs’ success is the Raiders offensive line. Las Vegas had a dominant o-line last season. According to Football Outsiders, the Raiders had the sixth-best offensive line in terms of run blocking. That should only continue into this season; as Pro Football Focus ranked Las Vegas’ offensive line as the 11th best entering the year. Such a great unit is part of the reason Jacobs was able to average 4.8 yards per carry last season. This year should be no different. Jacobs likely will have plenty of holes behind a dominant run blocking unit.

Another reason Jacobs should thrive this year is because of the Raiders’ offensive philosophy. Las Vegas wants to run the ball. Last season, the Raiders ran the ball on 44.2% of their plays, the eighth-most in the NFL. Vegas is a ground-and-pound football team. This only bodes well for Jacobs this season. While he was only able to carry the ball 242 times due to injury last year, there’s no reason to believe he won’t make it past 300 carries this season.

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason Jacobs will make a leap this season is due to the Raiders’ offseason moves. First, being on defense. Last season, the Raiders allowed the ninth-most points per game. Hence meaning the team was down a lot, which causes more pass plays. While Las Vegas did run the ball the eighth-highest percent of the time last year, that number most likely would’ve been higher if their defense kept the games close. That is what I expect to happen this season. The Raiders looked to improve their defense by signing players such as Cory Littleton, Damarious Randall, and Maliek Collins this offseason. The team didn’t stop there however, as they used draft capital to fix the unit as well. They used three picks within the first four rounds on defensive players, most notably first round cornerback Damon Arnette.

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The Raiders’ willingness to run the ball only benefits Jacobs this season. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

An improved defense isn’t the only change on Las Vegas’ roster that will help Jacobs make a leap this year. The Raiders draft additions on the offensive side of the ball will play a big role as well. The addition of receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards should limit opposing teams stacking the box against the run. The defenses will be forced to respect Ruggs’ speed, thus giving Jacobs more room to work. Las Vegas also looked to add to an already solid offensive line, by selecting guard John Simpson in the fourth round. Depth is always a good thing to have on the o-line, and can only benefit Jacobs.

The stage is now set for Josh Jacobs. This is his offense. The Raiders are ready to run the ball. They have the offensive philosophy and offensive line for it. No one is in place to take touches away from Jacobs. It’s not crazy to think he could finish top-five in rushing yards. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist

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