The Las Vegas Raiders have looked like a much better team over the past two weeks since Antonio Pierce took over as interim head coach after the franchise fired Josh McDaniels. One of the most noticeable things has been the improvement and featuring of running back Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs led the NFL in rushing last season and was a First-Team All-Pro selection. But after a contentious offseason, the running back got off to a slow start this year and eclipsed 25 carries just once in the first eight games. He has had more than 25 carries in each of the last two games and apparently is feeling rejuvenated since Pierce took over.
This was confirmed during the Raiders’ Sunday night win over the New York Jets. NBC Sports reporter Melissa Stark reported that Jacobs feels more respected now and actually could see himself staying with the Raiders beyond this season, transcription via Austin Boyd of Heavy.com:
“He feels like he’s respected a lot more,” Stark said during the November 12 “Sunday Night Football” broadcast. “He didn’t feel like that at the start of the season. He didn’t feel like they were trying to feature him then. Pierce told him he’s the heart and soul of this team. He loved hearing that, said it’s made him locked in. Jacobs told me this is the first time all he’s thought, ‘I’ll actually be back next year.’”
That type of belief can mean everything to a player. After failing to get a long-term contract this summer and struggling to match the impact he had last season, it felt like Jacobs’ time with the Raiders would be coming to an end after this year.
But Pierce has made it clear that he believes in Jacobs and has backed that up by truly featuring him in the offense. Jacobs has 214 yards on 53 carries the last two weeks and with rookie Aidan O’Connell at quarterback, having a strong run game is that much more important.
Pierce hasn’t made huge schematic adjustments since taking over but rather has simply instilled confidence in this Raiders team and made it a point to feature his stars. Jacobs and Davante Adams are two of the most talented players in this league and simply getting them the ball regularly makes all the difference.
And now it looks like Jacobs is not only locked in this year but potentially could see himself finally getting that long-term contract he desires with the silver and black, and staying in Vegas moving forward.