Josh Jacobs is entering a critical season in 2022, in what is suddenly a contract year.
The Las Vegas Raiders running back, a first-round pick of the Silver and Black in 2019, didn't have his fifth-year option exercised this offseason, meaning his fourth campaign in the pros could be his last in Nevada.
Jacobs, though, has at least one staunch supporter in the building: quarterback Derek Carr.
The veteran quarterback told NFL Network's MJ Acosta-Ruiz on Thursday's edition of NFL Total Access that he expects big things from Jacobs with his back against the wall, thanks to Las Vegas' influx of talent this offseason.
"Josh is someone I'm very excited for," Carr gushed. "He's someone who's working extremely hard to get in the best shape that he can be in because he knows that with all these weapons, maybe he'll have a lot of games where teams are just gonna say, 'Well, all right, Josh, you beat us.'
"Who knows? Who knows what could happen? One thing I know is these Raiders, these guys, they're working their tails off to try and put a good product on the field, and that doesn't guarantee wins, but it gives us a better chance."
Jacobs, tight end Darren Waller, receiver Hunter Renfrow and backup back Kenyan Drake are among Las Vegas' returning offensive stars, but the most notable name to star at Allegiant Stadium in 2022 will be an offseason addition: Davante Adams. The All-Pro receiver was acquired from the Green Bay Packers via trade in March and gives the Raiders their first bona fide WR1 since Amari Cooper was traded during the 2018 season; in fact, last year, Renfrow was the first Raiders receiver to lead the team in receiving yards since Cooper in 2016.
Las Vegas also added skill-position players in receivers Keelan Cole and Demarcus Robinson and backs Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah and Jakob Johnson. Add to the Raiders' offensive offseason haul rookie tailback Zamir White, and it'd be no surprise to see Jacobs' production curtailed in 2022, especially with a new regime in charge looking to lean on its own guys.
Jacobs has been one of the Raiders' most consistent performers since joining the team out of Alabama in 2019. A runner-up for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Jacobs has averaged over 1,000 rushing yards per season and scored 28 touchdowns in his first three campaigns. The back is one of two players with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards and seven rushing scores in each of the last three seasons.
However, Jacobs did see his rushing totals dip last year (217/872/9), as Las Vegas leaned on Carr more than it ever had in his eight seasons with the franchise. The QB boasted career-highs in completions (428), attempts (626) and yards (4,804) and led the Raiders to just their second playoff berth in 20 years. (Jacobs led all Raiders players with 17 touches and 127 total yards in their wild-card defeat.)
Will the infusion of pass-catching talent like Adams lead to even fewer opportunities for Jacobs in 2022, or will the offense open up for the RB with defenses focused on other mouths to feed? The answer will have a major impact on Las Vegas' success in its first year under head coach Josh McDaniels, and Jacobs' future with the franchise.