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Raiders squander stellar seasons from Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams

Updated January 1, 2023 - 10:32 am

When Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham steps behind center Andre James on Sunday against the 49ers at Allegiant Stadium, he’ll have the NFL’s leading rusher behind him and its leader in receiving touchdowns to his side.

Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams, who haven’t wavered in the face of adversity.

“I know those two are eager to play, and this in an interesting opportunity for all of us to really compete against a unit that obviously ranks right now as the best in the league,” coach Josh McDaniels said.

“They certainly are playing like it, and it’s a great opportunity, a great challenge for everybody.”

Amid the collective failings the 6-9 Raiders have experienced this season, Jacobs has elevated his caliber of play into that of an All-Pro, while Adams has maintained that same standard, having previously reached All-Pro status with the Packers. Jacobs has a career-high 1,539 rushing yards, and Adams has 88 receptions for 1,290 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns, tied for tops among pass catchers with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Their production is essential to an offense ranked 12th in scoring (23.2 points per game) and 14th in yards (347.6) — and deemed underachieving enough by McDaniels to trigger the benching of quarterback Derek Carr in favor of Stidham.

Despite the disappointment, Jacobs and Adams offered support for Stidham and intend on finishing what they started in September: Two of the best individual seasons in franchise history.

“I play football,” Jacobs said. “I’m not one of them guys that thinks about injury. … At the end of the day, the reason why I do this is the guys in the locker room. I feel like I would be flawed for them not to be able to see me out there when I can compete and nothing is wrong with me. That would be flawed of me, and I couldn’t even look them in the eye if they were to do it to me.”

An all-time great season

The next two games for Jacobs could be his final ones in Silver and Black. The Raiders declined the fifth-year option built into his rookie contract, and he’s eligible for free agency in the offseason.

He’s responded by totaling the second-most rushing yards in a season in franchise history and is in position to eclipse the record of 1,759 set by his mentor, Marcus Allen.

But even if he doesn’t, Jacobs maximized his earning potential by becoming one of the most productive players in the NFL.

Changes in training and nutrition helped Jacobs arrive to training camp in July in the best condition of his four-year career. He played on a career-high 75 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and maintained his health despite the bruising style of play he brings to an inherently physical position.

He leads the NFL with 764 rushing yards after contact, per Pro Football Reference, and is second among ball carriers to Titans stalwart Derrick Henry with 29 broken tackles.

Jacobs also leads the league with 1,908 yards from scrimmage, a figure he can celebrate and lament.

“I had this crazy year, and it could have been so much more crazy. You know what I’m saying?” said Jacobs, who ranks fifth in franchise history with 4,626 rushing yards. “It’s almost like, yeah, I’m happy for it. It’s an honor, and it’s a blessing. But I’m really like, ‘Damn, what’s in store?’ We’ll see.”

Jacobs, 24, is pragmatic about his impending free agency — acknowledging he might not be with the franchise next season while noting that “I want to be.”

“I’ve got enough money. I make great investments. I’m good. That’s not something I think about,” Jacobs said. “Obviously, you want to get paid, but that’s not something I come in here and go ‘yeah, I need to do this, do this and do this to get that.’ I feel like I work and everything else is going to take care of itself like how I present myself and go about my business.”

‘The ball keeps rolling’

Adams, too, has done exactly that in the first of five years he’s contractually committed to the Raiders. Despite totaling 36 receiving yards or fewer in five games this season, his yardage total through 15 games is seventh best in a season in franchise history.

The 30-year-old needs 119 yards in the next two games to eclipse Tim Brown’s franchise record of 1,408 and remains as great a receiver as there is in the NFL, maximizing his size, speed and strength with his route-running savvy.

That said, Adams has downplayed his individual acclaim, saying last week before being named to the Pro Bowl that he’s “got my sights set on much bigger things than the Pro Bowl at this point.”

That he didn’t experience those things — likely a division title, conference or Super Bowl championship — certainly mar the first season with the Raiders for Adams, who played on perennial conference contenders in Green Bay.

“We’ve got to finish out the season the best way we can with all things considered to this point,” Adams said. “This isn’t the first time the quarterback I started the season with isn’t going to be finishing the season, whether it’s injury or otherwise. The ball keeps rolling.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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