Just how good can Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs become?
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Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Just how good can Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs become?

Josh Jacobs has performed up to his first-round draft status. The rookie running back, hailing from Alabama, has added a new dynamic to the Oakland Raiders offense. That dynamic: the ability to be a workhorse running back.

Jacobs, through 12 games of play, has 218 rushing attempts for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. His attempts rank eighth in the NFL, his yardage is fifth, and his touchdowns are ninth. By all indications, he is running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, he is going to get better.

Jacobs is balling despite not being 100%. He is dealing with a fractured right shoulder, which he has played through. He suffered the injury on Oct. 20, in a loss to the Green Bay Packers. That’s called being tough as nails.

He’s tough man, he’s tough,” coach Jon Gruden said on Thursday, via USA Today. “He is a tough guy, he is a great kid, and he’s smart, and he’s a great competitor. Those are the things that people don’t see. Maybe they feel it, but he is off the charts when it comes to being on the mark in terms of his assignments, and he has a lot of pride in his performance. He’s the perfect centerpiece for our offense.”

Jacobs isn’t just tough; it may mean that he has yet to show his best work as a rookie. If what he is doing is at less-than-100%, what would he be like at 100%?

He should get better based on eventually regaining full health. However, that’s not the only reason why he has forged an outstanding rookie season, nor is it his age (21). It’s the passing offense around him.

Though the Raiders have shown improvement as a passing offense, it’s not enough for defenses to key on it entirely. What does that matter to Jacobs? If defenses aren’t terrified of the pass, they will run eight-man boxes more often than not. According to Player Profiler, 20.2% of his runs come against a stacked box; yet, he averages 5.2 yards per carry against them.

Imagine if Jacobs wasn’t running against a stacked box on 20.2% of his carries. He would have more opportunities to run freely, and in turn, be more productive.

Whereas Jacobs is a productive rusher, he hasn’t done much as a pass-catcher, tallying just 18 receptions for 146 yards on the season. Though not a Christian McCaffrey-type player when coming out of Alabama, Jacobs is a more than capable receiver; he has natural hands, is a fluid route-runner and is a monster in open space. Once the Raiders begin to include him more of a receiver, he should thrive even more.

Jacobs is just scratching the surface. The Raiders’ back can be an all-world type player once he gets healthy, gets looks as a receiver, and gets an offense that will take attention away from him.

Good luck, AFC West.