The annual Hall of Fame game is usually a showcase for rookies, fourth strings and players from NFL teams who face an uphill battle to make the roster. That’s why many fans were shocked when the Raiders released former Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs against the Jaguars – for two series.
The 24-year-old running back was on the field to start the game for Las Vegas and took a stint on the second play of the game which went for 12 yards and a first down. A surprise, but perhaps new head coach Josh McDaniels wanted to keep his star players active heading into the season.
But then Jacobs stayed on the court for another series. He ended up touching the ball seven times – five carries for 30 yards and two catches for 14 more yards. At the time he was taken off the field, many wondered why a player who many thought would be very featured in the regular season was given so much work.
McDaniels, hired in the offseason by the Patriots, explained the use of Jacobs after the game ended and appeared to play him.
“I still think it’s good for (current) fullbacks to carry the ball in pre-season,” McDaniels told The Athletic.
But could Jacobs have something to prove to a new coaching staff and McDaniels with little attachment to the roster players he inherited? Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller – the team’s other star players – haven’t sniffed the pitch. The Raiders also declined Jacobs’ fifth-year option in the offseason, making it a contract year for the Alabama product.
The Raiders drafted running back Zymir White from the University of Georgia in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, who won the majority of the remaining runs in the game, while catching three assists. It makes a lot more sense to play him in the Hall of Fame game, since he’s a rookie, but many have speculated that it could be indicative of a split in the races once the regular season rolls around.
‘Josh Jacobs starting in the Hall of Fame game says a lot,’ beat The Athletic’s Raiders writer Vic Tafur tweeted.
It’s the first pre-season game of the year, and it’s always dangerous to overreact to such meaningless displays, but it felt like the biggest lesson of Thursday’s game.
The Raiders ended up winning the game easily, 27-11, against the Jaguars.