No player overcame “adversity,” better than Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. A term that first-year head coach Josh McDaniels often used when discussing the team’s up-and-down season, Jacobs was a lone bright spot in a bleak 6-11 season.
Shortly after GM Dave Ziegler became the team’s general manager, they opted to decline Jacobs’ coveted fifth-year option, making him a scheduled UFA at season’s end.
A move that was questioned by many but well understood at the time, once the team drafted RB Zeus White in the fourth-round (No. 122) while doubling down on those gains with the selection of RB Brittain Brown in the seventh-round (No. 250).
Jacobs was asked during training camp how he would compartmentalize the emotions of not getting that coveted fifth-year. A question asked by Vinny Bonsignore of Las Vegas Review Journal, Jacobs took the high road and promised to let his game make the noise. You can watch Jacobs’ reaction in my Twitter video below:
Still, no question, I thought Jacobs would “ball-out” while potentially “outplaying his way out of Vegas,” having an “MVP type season.” You can catch my real-time training camp prediction when it came to Jacobs rumored to be on the trade block below:
Fast forward to today, and Jacobs has made me look like a smart man from my August prediction, as he finished the year as the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,653 rushing yards. That’s 115 more rushing yards than the No. 2 rusher–who also happens to hail from Alabama, as Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry was dethroned for the second consecutive season.
If you remember, Henry was crowned king from 2019-2020, racking up a massive amount of real-estate on the ground with a combined 3,567 rushing yards in those two seasons.
But back to Jacobs. Not only did he win the rushing title but also paced the NFL with 2,053 scrimmage yards. For a player who was once on the “outside looking in,” he sure created Vegas buzz as to whether reward him long-term or slap the franchise tag or transition tag in the offseason.
Coach McDaniels talked about JJ and his importance to the team moving forward in his season-ending presser below:
The franchise tag is roughly around $10.1M while the transition tag comes in at around $8.8M. The difference between the two aside from cap number is the inability to get compensation should Ziegler and company opt for the transition tag. However, the club will have first-right-of-refusal should another team try to pry him away from Sin City.
Either way, you need to keep JJ in Las Vegas. No question about it. A fan favorite, who seen his jersey sales sky-rocket in all the Raider Image stores, there is no doubt in my mind, a deal will get done.
Throughout the season, Jacobs showed true professionalism both on-and-off the football field. He was always willing to talk to the local media during open locker room periods and did it with a smile on his face. He didn’t have to, but he did. That’s who Josh Jacobs is as a person.
He finished the year, 106 rushing yards shy of tying Hall of fame RB Marcus Allen’s franchise record.
Earlier in the year, I captured the moment of the two embracing each other while Allen gave sound advice to the Roll Tide product before the Los Angeles Chargers game. You can catch my YouTube video of that warm interaction below:
While the team sets it’s eyes and turns their attention to the 2023 offseason, it will be interesting to see how they go about Jacobs. A player who embodies the Raider Way, while Offensive Coordinator Mick Lombardi labels him a “favorite,” while describing his game in one-word as “toughness,” the decision on whether to keep Jacobs here in Las Vegas seems like a back-door slam-dunk play.
In 17 games this year, Jacobs racked up 340 carries for 1,653 rushing yards (4.9 avg.) & 12 rushing touchdowns to go along with 53 catches for 400 receiving yards.