Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game between the Raiders and Jaguars was, generally speaking, a backup showcase.
That was certainly the case for the Raiders, who did not start or play several high-profile players on offense, including quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow or tight end Darren Waller.
Notably absent from that list: running back Josh Jacobs, who enters a pivotal year on his rookie contract in Las Vegas. The fourth-year running back not only started, but also played multiple series. He rushed five times for 30 yards (6.0 yards per carry), adding two catches for 14 yards.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Jacobs playing so much in a meaningless preseason game. First-year coach Josh McDaniels explained he wanted all the running backs to get some in-game action.
“I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in the preseason,” McDaniels said of Jacobs’ carries (via NFL.com). “There’s a lot of things that happen when you’re getting tackled and hit that you can’t simulate in practice.
“I think all our guys had the ball tonight. I think all our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and had to get tackled. We can’t really simulate that or rep that in practice.”
Veteran running backs Kenyan Drake and Ameer Abdullah on Thursday combined for 16 yards on seven carries. Rookie running back Zamir White, a fourth-round back out of Georgia, led the team with 11 carries and 52 yards. In all, Vegas rushed 33 times for 159 yards (4.8 ypc) and three touchdowns vs. Jacksonville.
The Raiders made Jacobs the lone running back taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft at No. 24 overall. Despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, Jacobs experienced a dropoff in production in 2021, missing two games in Weeks 2 and 3 and failing to rush for 100-plus yards until Weeks 16 and 18. He finished the season with 872 yards, 4.0 yards per carry and nine touchdowns.
Las Vegas declined to pick up Jacobs’ fifth-year option, making this a make-or-break season for the former first-rounder out of Alabama. He also is fighting for carries in McDaniels’ offense.
The addition of Adams to the receiving corps should in theory mean more success for Las Vegas’ running game. Jacobs now must make sure he performs well enough to stay in Las Vegas beyond his fourth season.