The Las Vegas Raiders got off to a strong start in the preseason with a 27-11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Many of the starters sat out, including Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night involved running backs.
Many were taken aback to see Josh Jacobs on the field for the first series of the game. What was even more surprising was when he went back on the field for the second series. The former first-round pick had five carries for 30 yards and two catches for 14 yards. It was a productive day for the projected starter.
The fact that Jacobs was out there was taken as a bad sign of his status with the new coaching staff. However, head coach Josh McDaniels explained his thought process behind the decision.
“I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in the preseason,” McDaniels said after the game. “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.”
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Why This Isn’t Concerning for Jacobs Yet
Many will read a lot into Jacobs’ start but it’s difficult to make too much of it right now. This is McDaniels’ first time being a head coach in over a decade. Perhaps he’s being honest about the fact that he likes to get his running backs work in the preseason. Jacobs started while all the other running backs on the Raiders roster also played. He’s clearly still the lead guy. He also played well and stayed healthy.
Now, if Jacobs keeps playing in preseason games, that might be cause for concern. He’s entering a contract year and has an injury history. He shouldn’t take too many unnecessary snaps. It’s going to take more time to truly know what the plan at running back is for the Raiders.
Zamir White Impresses McDaniels
The person Jacobs needs to worry about is Zamir White. The 2022 fifth-round pick was drafted by the new regime and figures to be Jacobs’ eventual replacement. In his Raiders debut, White had 11 rushes for 52 yards. He’s off to a good start and has impressed McDaniels.
“He did that in Georgia. He ran hard with the ball in his hands and is tough to tackle,” McDaniels said. “He finishes runs the right way, brings a physical element to the game and the team. It was a good opportunity for him to get in there and do that at our level and play in the kicking game some. Like I said, there’s going to be some things that we have to tweak and clean up, but I thought for him to get out there and establish – that’s the style of runner he was at Georgia, and then to see him do it here was good.”