Josh Jacobs can now admit he was feeling a little bit tired during the Raiders’ win over the Broncos on Sunday.
Not that he was about the let anyone know it. That was especially true late in the fourth quarter, when the Raiders were going up-tempo and leaning heavily on their fourth-year running back on their way to a game-clinching touchdown.
Jacobs never looked to the sideline for help or tapped his helmet to signal he needed a breather. It’s just not who he is.
“He just wants to stay out there,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
In his head, though, Jacobs was starting to feel it.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’m kind of tired,’” Jacobs said.
The Raiders’ season began with a running back-by-committee approach, but with Jacobs determined to be an ironman, that idea has gone out the window.
It takes a certain kind of player to push through at moments like at the end of the Denver game. For Jacobs, it’s the anticipation of something big waiting right around the corner and the possibility of missing out on that something while standing on the sideline.
“In football, you never know which play is going to be the one,” Jacobs said.
So he remained in the game, and eventually scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to put away a 32-23 victory.
“I know the ability I have, and at any given moment it can be a big play,” Jacobs said. “So whenever I stay in, it’s just more so about how I want to make my impact on the game and leave my stamp on the game.”
Jacobs has been doing more and more of that this year. In the process, he’s pretty much made the running back position a one-man proposition.
The Raiders broke camp with five running backs, plus fullback Jakob Johnson, but Jacobs has carried nearly the entire load so far. The former Alabama standout has 70 carries for 336 yards and two touchdowns over the first four games, with the next busiest ball carrier being quarterback Derek Carr, who has rushed 10 times.
Running backs Brandon Bolden and Zamir White have combined for nine rushing attempts, and Ameer Abdullah doesn’t have a single carry.
It was anticipated that White, a rookie from Georgia, would play a more prominent role, especially after the Raiders released Kenyan Drake during camp. But with Jacobs having the hot hand and showing no signs of fatigue, he will get the bulk of the carries.
“It says nothing negative about Zamir. Zamir is ready to go,” McDaniels said. “So, Josh has got to open the door and say come on in and take a couple reps off me, and he hasn’t done that a whole lot, and I’m OK with that.”
Part of that is the result of Jacobs reporting to training camp in the best shape of his life.
It’s also the result of the Raiders getting better blocking from an offensive line that is finally beginning to settle in after a monthlong audition for various jobs that included a rotation at right guard and right tackle. The last two weeks, though, a much more set group up front has played its best football of the season.
“I think y’all are just now seeing them. I’ve been seeing that from them. I saw a lot of it in OTA’s and camp,” Jacobs said. “The world is now seeing what they can do when we put it together. We came out and wanted to run the ball, and we all put out heads together and we did it. I think we can do that whenever we all sit down and put our minds to it.”
Jacobs has been the primary back for the Raiders since his rookie year in 2019, although injuries have sometimes slowed him.
That will be the challenge now, with the Raiders keeping a keen eye on Jacobs to keep him healthy and preserve him for the length of the season.
■ Who: Raiders at Chiefs
■ When: 5:15 p.m. Monday
■ Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
■ TV: ESPN
■ Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
■ Line: Chiefs -6.5 total 51.5