Josh Jacobs will look different this year for the Raiders. At least with his jersey. The running back spent his first four seasons as an NFL player wearing No. 28.
He has now switched to childhood and college No. 8.
“It’s just the number I feel like brings out something different in me,” Jacobs said. “It makes me feel like a superhero, for real.”
The Raiders don’t really need him to be Superman. But they’ll gladly take close to what Jacobs did last season.
That’s when he led the league in touches (393), yards from scrimmage (2,053) and rushing yards (1,653).
He is back, Jacobs having agreed to a one-year deal that could, with incentives, reach the $12 million mark. He missed all of training camp before signing the contract.
Now, the team will see how quickly he acclimates to things.
The Raiders open their season Sunday at Denver and it’s unsure how many carries Jacobs might get. Unsure how fast it might take him to get into football shape. The kind where you get hit a lot, where your body takes blow after blow.
He said he hasn’t missed a step physically, that he had a workout plan when away and stuck with it. That he didn’t feel at all lost during his initial practice last week. That it was more about refreshing the mental side of things.
“Just with the playbook and everything,” Jacobs said. “New plays and all that. I didn’t want to get left behind. But when I came in, I didn’t have any errors. So now it’s just about stacking days.”
It wasn’t all negative, being away, Jacobs said. He got to spend more time with his children, help with his father’s diet plans, work out with kids from his old high school.
But he’s a football player who missed the game, missed his teammates, missed the consistency of it all. He wanted more than anything to be with and around the guys.
He had a similar situation last year as he will this impending one, the Raiders having then not picked up his fifth-year option and Jacobs going into a season perhaps expecting free agency to arrive. But then the team used a franchise tag on him and so the drama ensued.
“I mean, you hear it all the time, but like literally you just bet on yourself, man,” Jacobs said. “I feel like — I say it all the time, but I truly believe it, that you just come in and you work and you do what you’re supposed to every day and everything else will take care of itself, however it plays out. That’s just what I believe in.”
He saw immediately last week how the Raiders have gotten faster, especially defensively. That some of the additions were making plays Jacobs didn’t remember being made last season. That the offensive line, those entrusted to block and open holes for him, appeared better. Saw a lot of players with high football IQs. Guys that love the game.
As for the returning Jacobs: He is, said coach Josh McDaniels, one of the smartest players he has been around. That it’s not as if the Raiders are going to reinvent the wheel, not with the production Jacobs provided last season.
That the coach will watch the conditioning of Jacobs closely, how quickly he works himself back into the system, before deciding what level of workload he might receive against the Broncos.
“There’s nobody in our building that doesn’t love him,” McDaniels said. “Coaches, players, support staff … I think he’s excited to be here. Loves being a Raider. So, yeah, it’s exciting. Whenever you get a player back, whether it’s from injury or something like this, it always gives you a little bit of a boost.”
Especially if it’s Superman. Or at least a guy who feels like him.
Contact sports columnist Ed Graney at @firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @edgraney on X.