Imagine what Josh Jacobs could have done this season if he hadn’t suffered a late-season shoulder injury.
Jacobs, the first-round pick from Alabama, was shut down after the Dec. 15 game against Jacksonville. He missed the final two games of the year, plus another in October. But in 13 games, Jacobs carried 242 times for 1,150 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 166 yards.
With Jacobs, the Raiders offense became much more dangerous in 2019, giving Oakland a strong running attack that helped open up the passing game. Five times Jacobs rushed for 100 or more yards in a game. Eight times he had 80 or more.
The Raiders rookie class as a whole was terrific, but Jacobs was the best of the bunch in 2019, and this week the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah selected Jacobs as the No. 2 rookie in the league, behind only 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa.
Wrote Jeremiah: “Jacobs had the Raiders in playoff contention before suffering a late-season shoulder injury. He is already one of the top performers at his position in the AFC.”
Jacobs showed a terrific combination of strength, speed and elusiveness. He forced 69 missed tackles, the most ever for a rookie running back. And, according to the analytic website Pro Football Focus, is the first NFL back since 2006 to have an elusive rating above 100. PFF reported Jacobs broke 78 tackles and had 3.5 yards per carry after initial contact.
Jacobs was selected AFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for October and November, but then was sidelined for the final two games in December when the Raiders still had a slim chance to earn a playoff spot.
Jacobs will be one of the team’s brightest young stars when the Raiders play their first season in Las Vegas in 2020. Though head coach Jon Gruden was disappointed Jacobs couldn’t finish out his first NFL season healthy, he has no doubts about his pro future.
“We couldn’t be happier with him,” Gruden told reporters late in the season. “He’s a great kid, he’s got slashing ability, he can break tackles, he’s got a powerful stiff arm, he’s taking care of the ball, he’s a good receiver and he’s going to get better. We wouldn’t trade him for any backs.”