Analyzing the Raiders’ advantages in the AFC West
The Running Game
The running back room for the Raiders is deep. Really deep
Josh Jacobs is the alpha, with two of his three seasons ending in over 1,000 rushing yards. In the rest of the AFC West combined, Melvin Gordon is the only running back who’s eclipsed that 1,000 [rushing] yard mark, back in 2017 with the Chargers. Now, Gordon is out of a premier role, being outplayed by ’21 rookie Javonte Williams last season.
Each season Jacobs has been in the NFL, he’s broken at least 20 tackles. In his rookie year of 2019, not only did the former Alabama back lead the league in forced missed tackles but he was awarded the title of “Most elusive running back” by Pro Football Focus. Since, Jacobs has certainly kept up that elusiveness, having the fifth-most forced missed tackles per touch last season.
That’s just Jacobs.
In April, I stated, “To put it simply, Drake is to Las Vegas what both Ekeler and Edwards-Helaire are to their respective squads, but as the no.2 back”. I still believe this.
With a 4.45 40-time, Drake is faster than the average NFL running back, who together average a time of 4.49. With his career 1,500 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns, this is a back who’s a true threat on passing downs. Last season, with Derek Carr, Kenyan Drake had a drop percentage of 0. Ekeler, the passing game specialist was at 7.4%, and Edwards-Helaire at a more respectable 4.3%.
In the passing game, Drake broke just one less tackle compared to Ekeler. This is quite impressive, considering Ekeler caught 40 more passes than Drake, totaling 70 receptions to Drake’s 30. For reasons such as this and his sure hands last season, the no.2 back for the Raiders earned a receiving grade of 82.0, per PFF – The third highest leaguewide.
In 2020, Drake put up 955 yards on the ground – A number neither Ekeler nor Edwards-Helaire has eclipsed.
In all likelihood, Brandon Bolden is the team’s third-down back. Last year, under new Raiders’ head coach Josh McDaniels, Bolden put up 405 receiving yards with an additional 226 on the ground. His drop percentage was also better than both Ekeler and Edwards-Helaire, dropping only 4.1% of passes his way. His 10 broken tackles in the passing game also topped both, totaling 4 more than Ekeler on 29 fewer catches.
Zamir White has yet to play a down in the National Football League, so I won’t spend too much time talking about him, albeit he’s a great talent himself. The Silver and Black’s new fullback, however, I will talk about.
When it comes to run blocking, there probably isn’t a better fullback than Jakob Johnson. In New England, he was one of Josh McDaniels favorite pieces. Bill Belichick sang the ultimate praise himself, claiming Johnson is the “Most improved player” the legendary head coach has ever coached. Now, Johnson is a Raider, and the half backs will benefit greatly from his presence.