Power and finesse: Josh Jacobs showing off versatility through first portion of impressive rookie season

What has become predictable through the first six games of Josh Jacobs’ young career is his productivity; what isn’t nearly as predicable is how the dynamic rookie will tally up the yards come game day.

In the early stages of his life as an NFL running back, Jacobs has shown that he has a bevy of ways to attack a defense, whether it’s with power, finesse, or some combination of the two. And while No. 28 has transitioned seamlessly through myriad styles of running in the first seven games, the way Jacobs attacks a defense is very much by design.

“Honestly, when I play the game, I don’t really know how to explain it because everything moves in slow motion,” explained Jacobs. “I don’t know how to explain it, but like, it feels like everything is half speed. I feel like I’m slow until I watch film, but besides that, I think I play mind games with the defense. The game [against the Green Bay Packers] I started off physical, I came out on the first run and ran a dude [Adrian Amos] over, and kind of set the tone, so after that everybody was looking for me to do that. I mix it up. I just play mind games. I notice certain players, I do certain things against, and I know that next time I see them, they’re going to look for me – the next time I saw him, he went low, and that’s when I jumped over him on the sideline. I just know that it’s just mind games.”

Those mind games have paid off so far for Jacobs; not only does he lead all rookies in rushing yards (554), but after last week’s 21-carry, 124-yard effort against the Packers, he has now more rushing yards than any Raider through the first six games of his career.

Plain and simple, Jacobs has been everything and more than the Raiders hoped for when they picked him No. 24 overall in this year’s NFL Draft, and while the rookie running back is still the youngest player on the roster – he’s still just 21 years old – he’s unquestionably become a foundational piece of what Head Coach Jon Gruden wants to do offensively.

“I knew he was special, man, in OTAs,” fellow running back DeAndré Washington said. “Not so much what he did with his play on the field, it was kind of how he handled the attention. A lot of guys – especially young guys – kind of don’t handle that attention too well, and those expectations, but he handled it very maturely for a guy his age. I had a lot of respect for how he handled that.”

And with the way that Jacobs has run through the first portion of his first regular season, No. 28 is poised to garner more and more attention as the season goes on – particularly if the Silver and Black can stack some wins going forward.

Already on pace for well over 1,000 rushing yards, and on the way-too-soon shortlist for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Jacobs is playing so well that his production is even surprising him just a little bit.

“I never doubted myself, like I couldn’t do it, but I didn’t expect it to go this well,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t expect to get the kind of feedback, like, I’m leaving off the field, and I’ve got players coming to me telling me, ‘you’re a Top 5 back in this league.’ Just telling me stuff like that. Just getting the recognition I feel like I didn’t get so much is huge.”

Next up for Jacobs and the 3-3 Raiders is a Week 8, AFC showdown against a Houston Texans team that not only like to run the ball themselves, but have excelled at stopping the opposition from getting things rolling on the ground.

Giving up just over 84 rushing yards per game, Jacobs and the other Raiders’ running backs will be tested by a stout Texans front, but regardless of who’s lined up against him, game situation, or outside expectations, the Silver and Black’s dynamic rookie will once again go to work, keeping the defense on  its toes in the process.

“Honestly, I don’t set expectations on myself, but I don’t set limitations,” he explained. “Every day I just come in and I try to work hard, and I try to give it all I got, and however it plays out – if it plays out bad, at the end of the day, I know I gave it my all. That’s how I view it.”

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