Properly evaluating running backs in today’s NFL can be incredibly difficult due to a variety of factors. One of which is the offensive line play in front of them, which greatly impacts how successful a running back can be. Another is personnel usage, as it’s now known that more receivers on the field means fewer defenders to stop the run.
But one of the best ways to tell which running backs stand above the rest is how well they run against stacked boxes. If a running back can have success despite teams loading up to stop the run, it likely means they are a special talent.
Luckily for the Raiders, it appears they have one of those special running back talents as Josh Jacobs was among the league’s best when facing an extra defender near the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the second-best running back in the league against stacked boxes:
In his first season, Jacobs was one of the best runners in the NFL, period. His 86.9 rushing grade overall trailed only Lamar Jackson and Nick Chubb among all qualifying runners, and Jacobs’ performance against stacked boxes didn’t fall too far from that mark. He is one of the best in the league at making defenders miss, and he put that to use against loaded fronts. Jacobs’ 29 broken tackles on 115 attempts amounted to the third-best rate among the 39 runners in this sample.
With Jacobs having so much success against seven and eight-man boxes last season, defenses are going to be in a difficult spot this year with the added speed at receiver. Do they leave the likes of Henry Ruggs and Tyrell Williams alone on the outside? Or do they back up the safeties, leaving Jacobs more room to run underneath?
Either way, the Raiders’ offense should be even better this season with Jacobs entering Year 2. If the Raiders can find ways to free him up by getting a defender or two out of the box, Jacobs could potentially rush for 1,500 or more yards in 2020.