The Raiders have been promoting Josh Jacobs for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for nearly a month now. There are campaign buttons and a comical Alec Ingold testimonial to prove it.
The Alabama product was a slam dunk back on Dec. 6, when the Raiders started stumping for their guy. That was the week leading up to a pivotal home game against the Tennessee Titans.
Jacobs didn’t play.
The No. 24 overall pick from the 2019 NFL Draft finally succumbed to a shoulder injury he played through for weeks. Jacobs absolutely trucked Adrian Amos during a Week 7 loss to the Green Bay Packers and fractured his shoulder plate in the process. He took a shot and came right back in the game, a painkilling routine that kept him active and effective for weeks.
That stopped against the Titans, when the Raiders held him out against Jacobs’ wishes. He missed three of the season’s past four games.
Jacobs was an obvious front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Now it’s not so simple. The missed time allowed Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders and Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown to each build a valid case.
There’s no telling who will win the prestigious award given out just before the Super Bowl.
It still should be Jacobs.
He recorded 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in just 13 games, a 4.8-yard per carry average. He was the offensive focal point, producing even when the opposition knew he was getting the ball. His 88.5-yards per game average ranks third in the NFL and would project to have 1,416 yards over 16 games.
The most impressive stat comes from analytics site Pro Football Focus, who reports that Jacobs forced 70 missed tackles, tops in the league despite missing three games. Since 2006, only Marshawn Lynch has forced more in a single season.
A case could be made for top performers in the rookie class, from Sanders’ total offense and yards per touch. Murray’s position is always valued high, as will his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback. Brown exceeded 1,000 yards and finished with a flurry -- while Jacobs was on the sideline -- with four 100-plus games in the last six weeks.
Anyone arguing for those guys could make an excellent case. That’s why it’s unclear who will win it this year. I don’t have a vote, but I’d cast one for Jacobs if I did. I'm not the only one. His impact as an offensive centerpiece was profound. His numbers stack up with anyone else in consideration.
Finishing the season strong would’ve helped his case. The Raiders making the playoffs would’ve done that, too. Jacobs’ year shouldn’t be cast off because an injury he played through for weeks took him out down the stretch.
Jacobs was named Offensive Rookie of the Month twice in a four-month season and didn’t play much in a third. The season-long honor should also end up on his mantle acknowledging an excellent 2019 season.