The Las Vegas Raiders must get their ground game going in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, which means they must bring running back Josh Jacobs back up to speed, but that depends upon if he is healthy.
Jacobs has missed two games this season because of an ankle injury and was not very productive when he returned in Monday night’s 28-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, running 13 times for 40 yards and catching five passes for 17 yards.
However, much of that might have had to do with the fact that the Raiders fell behind, 21-0, in the first half and had to rely almost exclusively on quarterback Derek Carr’s arm to try to get back into the game.
There was good news on Thursday and Friday when Jacobs was a full participant in practice after being limited on Wednesday, which might have been only a precaution to take it a little slowly with him after he played in a game for the first time in three weeks.
Even better, Jacobs had no injury designation on Friday’s report.
The Raiders (3-1) need a healthy Jacobs against a Chicago defense that is allowing 112 yards per game on the ground this season in a 2-2 start.
“It’s a tough thing to do in this league, running the football,” Coach Jon Gruden said this week without mentioning Jacobs or any players in the Raiders’ reshuffled offensive line. “We’ve got to get our running game going at some point early in a game, but we just haven’t done very well early in games, let’s be honest, and that needs to change.
“We’ve just had a lot of moving parts. I mean, the different running backs, and we've had a number of different offensive linemen. So, it’s a work in progress and it’s not easy. But we’re going to continue to work at it and get better at it."
Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in addition to catching 20 passes for 166 yards as a rookie two years ago after the Raiders selected him the first round (No. 24 overall) of the NFL Draft out of Alabama, and he added 1,065 rushing yards and 12 scores while also catching 33 passes for 238 yards last season.
However, he has been limited to 23 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns in addition to six catches for 23 yards this season because of the injury. Peyton Barber, who played well in spurts when Jacobs was injured, is battling a toe injury so the Raiders have Kenyan Drake as a backup running back, although Jalen Richard has been activated from the injured reserve list.
What the Raiders really need on Sunday is the Jacobs who played against the Bears two years ago at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Jacobs rushed for 123 yards on 26 carries and caught three passes for 20 yards that day, when he scored on touchdown runs of 12 and two yards, leaping over the pile and into the end zone on the latter TD with 1:57 left in the game to give the Raiders a 24-21 victory over the Bears.
That game also was played in Week 5, and the Raiders could use more of the same from Jacobs on Sunday against Chicago at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas to open things up for Carr and the passing game, which struggled at times against the Chargers after he led the league in passing yards through the first four weeks.
Carr and the Raiders'’ offense has proven that they can do big things with a full deck, and in his first two seasons Jacobs has shown that he definitely is an ace.
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