ALAMEDA, Calif. — As the Raiders were preparing to start their season in August, players and coaches repeatedly said running back Josh Jacobs didn’t look like a rookie.
The 24th overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft won’t turn 22 until February. But Jacobs has been one of the best backs in the league in his first six games and is re-writing the Raiders’ record books.
Rushing for 124 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, Jacobs became the only Raiders rookie to record consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing. With 554 yards rushing through six games, he also eclipsed Bo Jackson’s franchise record for most rushing yards in a player’s first six games (553).
Jacobs is eighth overall in yards rushing but fifth in averaging 92.3 yards per game, behind only Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb. Midway through the season, he’s made a clear case for Offensive Rookie of the Year, leading all first-year running backs in rushing yards, carries (109) and touchdowns (four).
Jacobs says he isn’t concerned about his stats or potential accolades.
“I don’t really care. I’m just trying to win games. That’s just the biggest thing to me,” Jacobs said after Sunday’s 42-24 loss to the Packers. “Right now, I don’t really feel good. So that’s just what it is.”
No matter how he has felt personally, his teammates have continued to praise how he’s played through the first six weeks of the season.
“The guy’s a stud,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He’s a rookie, so they’ll give him a year or two before they say it. But talent-wise, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL.”
While the Raiders lost on Sunday, Jacobs displayed his mettle from his team’s first offensive snap. Taking a handoff to the left, Jacobs lowered his shoulder and bulldozed Packers safety Adrian Amos. A play later, Jacobs made a cut in the middle of the field to find open space, then stiff-armed Packers safety Will Redmond to gain 42 yards.
“He told me during pregame warmups, he said, ‘I’m on today, I’ve got a great feeling.’ He was on,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He knew he was gonna play well.”
“First run of the game was spectacular. Just great display of power. And then on his next run, it was a great display of change of direction, stiff arm, slashing ability.”
Gruden also touted Jacobs’ toughness, as the running back tweaked his shoulder on the first play of the game but came back to play. “He’s the real deal,” Gruden said.
While Jacobs said postgame he doesn’t expect to miss any time with the shoulder issue, Gruden said the Raiders are still monitoring his workload. In college at Alabama, Jacobs never had more than 120 carries. He’s on pace to have 291 through the 16-game season.
And part of what Gruden likes about Jacobs is that he doesn’t want to come out of the game.
“This guy wants to be a great back. And to do that, he’s got to play. He’s got to play through some tough injuries and some tough spots,” Gruden said. “But we are going to try to be careful with him.”
After all, the Raiders feel like they truly have something special with Jacobs. And based on what he’s done so far, they look right.