Josh Jacobs was good for the Las Vegas Raiders in the Hall of Fame Game Thursday night.
No, really, he started and seemed to be the best player on the field early in the game when both teams had a sprinkling of starters on the field. Jacobs rushed 5 times for 30 yards and played two offensive series before leaving.
But, you see, that’s the curious thing.
Jacobs, the club’s first-round pick in 2019 out of the University of Alabama, is the team’s presumptive starting running back. And presumptive starting running backs playing the first preseason game is odd when judged against how most coaches handle the decision to use such players in August.
Example: Tennessee’s Derrick Henry hasn’t played a preseason game since 2018.
And, I get it, one former Alabama running back is not equal to the other. But the reason not using top runners so early in preseason is because, well, there’s a chance of injury. A chance of freak, unpredictable stuff happening.
New Raiders coach Josh McDaniels obviously sees this and believes it’s good to be cautious with some of his stars players in other positions. So he sat stars such as quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Davante Adams, tight end Darren Waller, defensive ends Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby, receiver Hunter Renfro and others.
Jacobs, meanwhile, played with mostly backups.
That speaks volumes. And it says the Raiders see Jacobs as just one of the guys competing for carries now and possibly throughout the course of the regular season.
Yeah, fantasy owners take note.
But don’t believe me. Trust McDaniels, who was asked about Jacobs and, in answering, lumped him in with all the other running backs.
“To get everybody ready to go,” McDaniels said when asked his reasoning for playing Jacobs. “We made the decisions we thought were the right decisions for our team, some based on depth, some based on just wanting to get guys opportunities to get in there and I always think it’s good for the backs to carry the ball in the preseason.”
McDaniels then used the logic for protecting a starting running in the first preseason game as the very reason for playing Jacobs, which was also kind of weird.
“There’s a lot of things that happen when you’re getting tackled and hit that you can’t simulate in practice,” McDaniels said.
Yeah, like getting knocked out.
“So, I think all our guys had the ball tonight,” the coach continued. “All our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and had to get tackled. We can’t really simulate that or [repetition] that in practice.”
Jacobs has rushed for 3,087 yards and 28 TDs while catching 107 passes for 752 yards in his three seasons. But this offseason the club declined to exercise a fifth-year option on him, meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
And that’s logical because Jacobs made the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago which increased the amount of his potential fifth-year option. Plus Jacobs was drafted by the last coach and general manager and now the Raiders have a new coach and general manager.
Are you getting the feeling the Raiders like but don’t love Josh Jacobs?
The new brain trust this offseason added Brandon Bolden in free agency, Zamir White in the draft, and welcomed back Kenyan Drake after he broke his right ankle last year. So Jacobs, starter or not on Thursday night, obviously needs to prove he is deserving of his carries.
That will be interesting because this game showed he may have competition. Austin Walter rushed 8 times for 49 yards and a touchdown. And White gained a game-high 52 yards on 11 carries and picked up a first-down on short yardage with a beastly run.
“He did that in Georgia,” McDaniels said. “He ran hard with the ball in his hands. He’s tough to tackle. He finishes runs the right way, bring a physical element to the game and the team. So it was a good opportunity for him to get in there and do that at our level.
“I thought for him to get out there and establish that’s the style of running he was at Georgia and see him do it here was good.”
Fantasy owners take note.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero