Raiders Film Room: With Josh Jacobs, Raiders May Feature More Two-Back Sets

On Tuesday morning, the Raiders hit the field for their first day of Organized Team Activities. It’s always exciting to see the players out on the field even if the practice sessions are limited to 7-on-7’s and individual drills. There were a few notable absences, including rookie running back Josh Jacobs and wide receiver Antonio Brown, though head Coach Jon Gruden made it sound like both would be around by next week.

The post-practice press conference was the first time Gruden has faced the media since rookie mini-camp ended a few weeks ago and it’s obviously still very early in the process of determining who will get significant playing time – or even make the final 53-man roster. But Gruden did share some insight into his plans for the season. Most notably was his desire to incorporate rookie Josh Jacobs and returning running back, Doug Martin, into some two-back sets.

“[Martin] is proven. I think that he is capable of being a Pro-bowl running back in this league.” Gruden said. “That includes playing in the passing game or playing without the ball and picking up blitzes. He’s a confident guy, very comfortable in whatever role you ask him to be in. We didn’t let him be the third down back last year because Richard emerged. But there is a good chance we play some two halfbacks this year. You see New Orleans do it with [Alvin] Kamara and the other back they have, [Mark] Ingram. Perhaps we go that route.”

After spending one of their three first-round picks (24th overall) on Jacobs, Gruden is going to make sure he utilizes the Alabama standout. Josh only carried the ball 251 times in three years at Alabama however, so it could behoove the staff to keep him at or under 20 carries a game. Using a “running-back-by-committee” approach should keep him fresh through the much longer NFL season. Putting two halfbacks on the field at the same time is becoming a trend around the league again and since Gruden came up in the days of the “Pro” set, he will be all too familiar with two back concepts.

Let’s look at a couple the Saints used last season to get an idea of what to expect.

This first play is a great example of how Jacobs, in a two back set, can impact the game without even having to touch the ball. The Saints will use running back Alvin Kamara on a jet sweep as window dressing before the snap. The sole purpose is to impact the linebackers’ eye discipline. Then they employ a soft play action to fellow halfback Mark Ingram, which pulls the boundary flat defender toward the line of scrimmage. That action combined with the vertical route from the “X” receiver opens a large gap in the Redskins “Quarter-Quarter-Half Cover-8”. That gap makes for an easy catch and run for the “Z” on his a 10-yard dig.

Defenses will have to decide how they want to match up against the Raiders offense. For example, the Saints are in “21” personnel on this play which would traditionally be considered a run group, yet Washington counters with their nickel defense. It was the correct call but they ended up surrendering a big play because of the attention they were paying to the backfield.

Much like teams have been using “10” personnel to run against lighter boxes, offenses could now be using “20” and “21” to throw against base defenses. Imagine getting the aforementioned Antonio Brown into the slot with a linebacker assigned to coverage. Highlight reels will roll.

This play is similar in design to the one above but could get one of the Raiders most athletic big men into open space with room to rumble. Tight end Darren Waller is a 6’6″, 255-pound athletic freak that ran a 4.46 at the combine. He hasn’t put up many stats with 18 receptions going for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

But plays like this one could change that.

The Saints are again in “21” personnel against Washington’s nickel package. Once again, there is a pre-snap Jet motion and another play action to Ingram. This time, however, instead of running a dig, the “Z” receiver “cracks” the safety as he drops to the box. From his inline position the “Y” faints blocking the defensive end before releasing on the slip screen. At the moment the ball is caught, the receiver has 20 yards open in front of him.

Waller may have had the speed to get this one to pay dirt.

General manager Mike Mayock didn’t spend first-round draft capital on a decoy, so some of these sets will find the ball in Jacob’s hands, which is where it probably belongs. This play was a similarly designed “Jet Motion Power Trey” which utilized the “Jet” pre-snap motion to slow the linebacker pursuit. Their hesitation allows Jacobs to turn the corner and get downhill. His ability to finish runs is going to have fans fired up this year.

Using two back sets and multiple ball carriers will help keep the Raiders young workhorse fresh. They will need him once the weather starts getting colder to control the clock late in games.

As a team, the Raiders will travel just short of 25,000 miles this year which is the 29th-most in the NFL. Winning the time of possession battle could help offset some of the impact on the players both mentally and physically.

Regardless of the play design, Jacobs will be a featured cog in the offense that could witness him push for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors (he is already one of the favorites). If all goes as planned, that award will accompany a trip to the postseason.

twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL



3 thoughts on “Raiders Film Room: With Josh Jacobs, Raiders May Feature More Two-Back Sets

  1. Nice job. Do you think Marshawn Lynch would be a fit for any kind of 2 back sets ??

    1. Lynch would be a fit in any system but certainly in this one. Imagine being a LB with Jacobs running across the formation and then Lynch coming downhill. Doesn’t sound like he’s going to be back unfortunately, think it would happened by now.

  2. it would be nice to see gruden use jet motion once in a while / he barely used it at all last year

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