Arguably the very best thing the Raiders were able to do last season was run the football.
The Silver and Black running back corps fell into place for Head Coach Jon Gruden, who notably has a passion for running the ball with dominance and controlling the pace and tempo of a game. The Raiders were a top-15 team in rushing yards, rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns, with their 20 rushing touchdowns being the sixth most in the NFL.
Josh Jacobs shined among his peers as the feature back the Raiders drafted him to be in the first round two seasons ago. Jacobs, 23, made his first Pro Bowl appearance last season and is still considered a rising star only getting stronger and better with time, and he should once again be the fearless leader of the backfield.
To take the role as Jacobs backup, the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake from the Arizona Cardinals to replace Devontae Booker, who signed with the New York Giants. Drake's productive career in the NFL so far may warrant the two backs to be used in a 1A-1B type capacity — he's coming off a career season, nearly rushing for 1,000 yards and hitting pay dirt on 10 occasions. Drake also brings a dimension to the passing game out of the backfield that will transform the Raiders offense. Jacobs and Drake are very familiar with each other, having both attended Alabama that forged a big-brother, little-brother type relationship that has followed them to Las Vegas.
"I was fighting for [Drake] to get him over here when I found out that Book [Devontae Booker] was leaving," Jacobs said. "Man, I've known Kenyan forever, since Alabama days. He used to come back and train with me all the time. His game speaks for itself. He's very versatile. Can play inside and very good in open space. He can take the top off, so he's going to be a great addition."
"Obviously, we both have a high respect for each other's game and each other personally," Drake said of Jacobs at OTAs. "Obviously, we got the Bama [Alabama] connection, so Roll Tide. And I just feel like once everything kind of gets going… you're just going to rely on the things that you've kind of been adapted to grow into, and that's being the best versions of ourselves and kind of really feeding off each other once we get in there.
"His running style is definitely infectious, the bruising, physical style, being able to make people miss in space. And me, vice versa, so I definitely feel like we will be able to complement each other, especially with everybody in that room. We got a lot of high respect for everybody in the room and whoever touch the ball, we're going to be their biggest fans for that play and continue on as the season goes on."
To round out the rest of the backfield, there are a couple of returning members in Alec Ingold, who plays fullback but we'll include for the sake of the backfield, and reserve running backs in Jalen Richard and Theo Riddick. Ingold has been an integral part of the Raiders offense since coming out of Wisconsin as an undrafted free agent. He's a physical sledgehammer the Raiders can plug wherever they like, as his athleticism and strength helps him excel as a runner, pass catcher and blocker. Ingold also scored the first touchdown ever in Allegiant Stadium off a goalline pass from Derek Carr. I highly anticipate Ingold not only resuming his role in this offense, but potentially being a Pro Bowler this 2021 season.
Richard and Riddick both bring an immersive amount of knowledge and experience to the backfield and have both had opportunities to prove themselves last year in their respected roles. They will have to face stiff competition in efforts of keeping their jobs from two 2021 undrafted rookie free agents in Trey Ragas and Garrett Groshek. Ragas left Louisiana-Lafayette with the third-most rushing yards in school history – and has looked fast and physical with great speed this offseason at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center. Groshek is another big body back from Alec Ingold's alma mater, who ran for over 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns in his four seasons as a Badger.
There's no surprise that Jon Gruden is going to continue to run the ball. Jon Gruden also clearly brought in another running back the caliber of Kenyan Drake to help alleviate Jacobs workload and keep him fresh throughout the season. Depending on if the offensive line can stay healthy and protect their two star backs, I believe Josh Jacobs will have his third consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season. Kenyan Drake should be on tap for 1,000 total scrimmage yards this season. Add Alec Ingold to the mix, and the trio could run for another combined 20 rushing touchdowns this season as well.
Another bold prediction I have is that the former Rajun Cajun Trey Ragas will get a chance to make the 53-man roster behind Jacobs and Drake. Ragas is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, very physical and his draft stock was affected due to coming from a smaller, non-Power 5 school and the COVID-19 pandemic.
I will be definitely keeping my eye on this young man throughout Training Camp and the preseason.
View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders running backs heading into 2021 Training Camp.