Josh Jacobs woke up Wednesday to a rather pleasant surprise. From the moment he began his day, he noticed something unusual. And it wasn’t so much what he was feeling as it was what he wasn’t.
Pain, to be specific.
As the Raiders running back did his normal body check this time of the season, there weren’t the normal aches or throbbing or soreness he normally deals with. Given that he was coming off three straight games after missing Weeks 2 and 3 with toe and ankle injuries, it was almost cause for celebration that for the second consecutive week he felt perfectly fine.
“I haven’t been two weeks in a row since I’ve been in the league where I came out of games with nothing like no scratches, no nothing,” Jacobs said. “This is the first time I’ve felt good.”
The key is keeping it that way. Which is why Jacobs might have been the happiest player on the field Sunday when fellow running back Kenyan Drake finally broke through for the Raiders with an 18-yard touchdown run and 31-yard TD catch.
That might seem unusual considering Jacobs and Drake play the same position and it would only be natural if one wanted all the touches.
But it’s the complete opposite for Jacobs, who urged the Raiders to sign him in the offseason and pushed Drake to accept the offer.
There were personal and selfish motivations.
On one hand, the Alabama connection Jacobs and Drake share has resulted in a close friendship developing over the years.
“That’s really my dog,” Jacobs said.
On the other, after dealing with injuries in his first two years, especially late in the season, Jacobs knew it was necessary to add a cohort to the backfield.
Someone who could play in conjunction with him and sometimes in lieu of him. The objective was to create a two-headed running back monster in which the falloff between the starter and backup would be minimal.
But it would also help preserve Jacobs’ health so he could be at his best for more prolonged periods. Especially in November and December when playoff contenders begin separating themselves from the pretenders.
Hence the impassioned case he made to add Drake in the offseason. And also the reminders he lends to the offensive coaching staff to make sure they tap into Drake on game day.
“I tell them, I don’t want this to be a one-man show. My body doesn’t want this to be a one-man show, you feel me?” Jacobs said. “So I tell them, incorporate him.”
That has been hit and miss, with Drake going long stretches without getting touches. But that could be changing now that Greg Olson has assumed play-calling duties after the resignation of coach Jon Gruden last week.
Olson made a point to get Drake more involved, and Drake took advantage. He’s up to 98 yards rushing on 28 carries and 15 catches for 177 yards.
“I just try to make the most of my opportunities,” Drake said. “Whenever my number is called, whether it’s in the return game, pass game, running game, that’s what I’m here for. So that’s what I hope to continue to do as the season goes on.”
His biggest fan is cool with that.
“Just to see him have success and have him kind of coming into his role on the team has been huge,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs isn’t off to a particularly strong start, rushing for 175 yards on 54 carries. And his 3.2 yards per carry is well off his career average of 4.2.
But there are valid reasons for the slow start.
Jacobs was dealing with toe and ankle injuries from the get-go. And the offensive line has struggled to find a rhythm. The result has meant far too many Jacobs runs that were doomed from the start as opposing tacklers met him behind the line of scrimmage.
But the line is coming off its best game Sunday at Denver.
“We’re finally getting a lot of guys who are getting a lot of movement,” Jacobs said. “There were a couple of plays where we weren’t getting touched for 5 yards, things like that. It was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Who: Raiders vs. Eagles
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Raiders -3; total 49