The Las Vegas Raiders secured an exhilarating overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The Raiders entered a boisterous AT&T Stadium as clear underdogs after suffering back-to-back blowout defeats but played a quality game of football en route to a thrilling win. It was a crucial victory for a Raiders team that's fallen on tough times as of late and gets them right back in the playoff hunt in a jumbled race for a wild-card spot in the AFC.
Vegas' top offensive weapon, Darren Waller, suffered a knee injury during the contest, an unfortunate occurrence that forced offensive coordinator Greg Olson to switch things up offensively. Part of that strategy included a season-high 24 touches for starting running back Josh Jacobs. The Raiders had previously discussed getting Jacobs more involved, and they made it a priority by awarding Jacobs with an astounding 72.7% share of their backfield touches. Jacobs responded to the heavy workload by converting 22 carries into a modest 87 yards and a touchdown. Rarely known for his abilities as a pass-catcher, Jacobs also recorded two receptions for 25 yards.
Although it was entertaining to witness the once-dynamic Jacobs handle an increased amount of touches, the Raiders would be wise to treat their backfield like a true timeshare for various reasons. Fellow running back Kenyan Drake largely took a backseat to Jacobs on Thursday, receiving just nine touches versus Jacobs' aforementioned 24. Firstly, what exactly is general manager Mike Mayock paying Drake handsomely to do if Jacobs is viewed as capable of handling 20 or more touches per contest? Drake's current two-year contract (which was signed just months ago) averages $5.5 million annually, making him the 15th-highest-paid running back in the league on a per-year basis. It was a puzzling signing at the time, and will only become more perplexing if Drake continues to play second-fiddle to Jacobs by such a large margin.
That doesn't mean the Raiders should force Drake onto the field. We would never recommend a player to receive more playing time based on contract status alone. Drake is legitimately more explosive than Jacobs, particularly in the passing game. The former Alabama standout has made a profound impact on Vegas' offense when given the opportunity to do so. Drake has recorded at least five receptions in three separate games this year and is averaging a healthy 9.8 yards per reception. Drake essentially moves the chains on the majority of his catches. For comparative purposes, Jacobs, who has never been viewed as a pass-catching threat, is averaging a much more pedestrian 6.6 yards per catch.
The numbers don't necessarily favor Jacobs as a pure ball-carrier either. Jacobs has generally lacked juice when carrying the football in 2021. Jacobs has been hampered by chest, ankle, and knee injury designations throughout the campaign and his productivity has taken a hit. It's worth noting the Raiders are an abysmal run blocking team, but Jacobs is currently averaging a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, whereas Drake holds the slight advantage at 4.1 yards per rush.
The total numbers also favor Drake. In a world where explosive plays reign supreme, Drake has recorded four explosive plays (rushes/receptions of 20-plus yards), whereas Jacobs has just three explosives to his name, despite out-touching Drake 141-91 on the season.