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New Packers RB Josh Jacobs Ready to ‘Work’ After Dismal 2023

Josh Jacobs was an All-Pro with the Raiders in 2022. In 2023, his rushing total was cut in half. The Green Bay Packers’ new No. 1 running back explained on Friday at Lambeau Field.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 2022, Josh Jacobs led the NFL in rushing with 1,653 yards. In 2023, he gained only 805.

On Thursday, he officially signed with the Green Bay Packers, who are betting $48 million that they added the All-Pro and not the all-disappointment.

What happened last year?

“Obviously, as a team, with the contract stuff and all of that coming in, it was a little different,” Jacobs told reporters at Lambeau Field on Friday. “We had a lot of new moving parts. We didn’t really know who the quarterback was going to be, we didn’t really know what our identity was going to be. So, the first few games were kind of rough, and then we started to figure it out a little bit, but we couldn’t really stay consistent and then, toward the end of the year, I end up having an injury.”

Jacobs played last season under the franchise tag. But not before skipping all the offseason practices and the first month of training camp. The long delay didn’t help, and the Raiders were a mess under coach Josh McDaniels. By the time he was fired, the season was 8 weeks old. Jacobs averaged about 100 yards per game in 2022, but had minus-2 against Buffalo in Week 2, only one game of better than 70 yards (77) and just one game with even a meager 3.7-yard average (4.07).

Even the Packers, with their terrible run defense, held him to less than 3.5 yards per carry.

Jacobs looked much more like himself under interim coach Antonio Pierce. Called the “heartbeat” of the team by Pierce, Jacobs had 98 yards in Pierce’s debut – he had 100 until losing 3 yards on the final carry. He added 116 a week later. A couple weeks later, he rumbled for 110 with a 5.5-yard average against the Chiefs. All but 11 yards came after contact, according to Pro Football Focus.

However, he missed the final four games of the season with a quad, so he finished with less than half of his 2022 rushing total. Maybe more eye-opening – even alarming – his missed-tackle count plunged from a league-high 90 to 28.

“It was just one of them situations where you expected a lot out of that season, and it just didn’t go that way,” Jacobs said.

Despite the dip in production, Jacobs said “10 to 12 teams” were interested when free agency opened on Monday.

“It was kind of weird because they were all hitting me at once and it was a small window,” Jacobs said. “So, I’m like, ‘Man,’ trying to weigh my options and figure it all out. But, ultimately, I just liked what they had going on over here. Going to playoffs and actually competing for the Super Bowl and things like that. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. If was definitely something I wanted to leave my mark on.”

With the Packers, Jacobs will have some big shoes to fill. While he missed six games due to injuries, Jones beat Jacobs in yards per carry (4.6 to 3.5), yards after contact per carry (3.15 to 2.35) and other key stats. Even while having 90 fewer carries, Jones had six more runs of 10-plus yards.

Jacobs is aware of who he’s replacing, having trained at the same place in Miami in previous offseasons.

“I already know what kind of guy he is,” Jacobs said. “Great dude and, obviously, he’s a legend around here just for what he’s done in his time that he’s been here. I don’t really consider myself coming in and replacing what he’s done. I just try to hold that standard.”

At a position that’s increasingly become a throwaway around the NFL, Jacobs’ four-year, $48 million contract with the Packers was a whopper.

However, you don’t even need to check out the fine print to see the reality. Because only the $12.5 million signing bonus is guaranteed, the Packers can move on next offseason, when a $5.93 million roster bonus is due, and save money against the cap. His base salaries soar to $10.2 million in 2026 and $12.2 million in 2027, so that money will have to be earned.

That’s what he plans on doing.

“The best thing to do is come in and put your head down and work,” Jacobs said of his approach. “Be a leader in the locker room with the guys and be a leader in the community. I think all of those things are important. So, I think that’s the best start on the way to that track.”