The Raiders made a big splash this offseason by adding marquee wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, but a pair of running backs on the roster may be equally as important to the passing game in 2019.
Jalen Richard, entering his fourth season in Oakland, and rookie Josh Jacobs could give Derek Carr one of the NFL’s best receiving duos out of the backfield this season.
In Jon Gruden’s offense, short, ball-control routes are a staple, and Richard and Jacobs should provide constant targets for Carr.
Last season, Richard had 68 catches for 607 yards. Jacobs, playing for Alabama, had 20 catches and averaged 12.4 yards per reception, using his rocket speed and moves.
Gordon McGuiness, who writes for the analytic website Pro Football Focus, noted Jacobs had the sixth-highest grade as a receiver in major college football in 2018. Though the Crimson Tide didn’t often throw his way, Jacobs showed a terrific skill set and often turned short catches into long gains. In the NFL, those skills will be much more on display, he wrote.
"Jacobs wasn’t used frequently as a receiver, but he flashed the ability to make defenders miss in the open field after the catch, adjusted to the ball downfield on several occasions and displayed natural hands," he wrote. "This is important to note because a large portion of the value that Jacobs will bring to the Raiders offense will come through the contributions he is able to make as a receiver."
McGuiness pointed to the fact Jacobs forced 20 missed tackles on just 47 career receptions as a skill that is likely to make him dangerous to opposing defenses.
That means, too, that Jacobs can be a three-down back. The more snaps he has on the field, the more effective he can be. And, it will allow the Raiders to use Jacobs in creative ways in the same sets, even more than he was used in 2018. In his career, Richard has lined up as a wide receiver on one fifth of the routes he has run in his pro career. Gruden has called Richard a "satellite" in the team’s passing offense, someone who can float in space as a safety valve for Carr.
Some Raiders players already have reported to training camp, with the remainder expected to report Friday.