In a shocking move late in the NFL preseason, the Las Vegas Raiders traded 2020 third-round pick Lynn Bowden (and a 2021 sixth-round pick) to the Miami Dolphins for a fourth-rounder in 2021. Yes, you read that correctly, Bowden already has more career trades than snaps played. The former Kentucky Wildcat running back/wide receiver hybrid was noted as one of head coach Jon Gruden’s favorite picks of the draft, but off-field concerns and fears of lack of commitment began to arise and the Raiders would determine Bowden to not be worth the risk.
Before the trade, the Raiders had intended to slate Bowden as Josh Jacobs’ immediate backup. Now, the Raiders have struggled to match Bowden’s potential. Versus the Panthers, the Raiders had three players rush the ball: Jacobs, former Denver Bronco Devontae Booker, and Henry Ruggs. Jacobs rushed 25 times for 93 yards and three touchdowns while the latter two would record six rushes for 40 yards. Against the Panthers, Josh Jacobs continuously steamrolled over the defense, prompting the Raiders to continue calling his number. “Feeding the hot hand” is a common trend in sports, and Las Vegas had no reason to do anything other than that.
However, Jacobs is a second-year running back, and rushing him into a bellcow role could be severely detrimental to the longevity of his career. Now, the Raiders find themselves in a sticky situation, wanting Jacobs to be the team’s outright lead back but not wanting to burn him out early. On the other hand, the team does not have a standout second option. Jalen Richard stirred up hope that he may emerge in the backup committee. Yet, his zero rushes on the season may point in another direction.
Booker, however, did record four carries, but out of 31. As a result, that puts him at about 13 percent of the team’s total. Positively, Booker runs like a U-Haul van full of bricks careening down a mountain, but that still has not earned him the carries one might expect. Regardless, the Las Vegas Raiders do not have a true second-string running back. Richard appears locked in as a receiving back. Meanwhile, Booker is on pace to record about one-eighths of Jacobs’ carries.
Las Vegas already endured its fair share of injuries (Trent Brown, Nick Kwiatkoski, Ruggs) through the first week. While the team proves to be chock full of capable backups, the running back position appears to stir up the most questions. Presumably, should Jacobs ever not be able to play, Booker will get the start.
Of course, the backup will not be as good as the starter, but the skill drop off from Jacobs to Booker appears comparable to the Ezekiel Elliot/Tony Pollard combination. As my grandpa says, “it is better to be safe than sorry” yet when it comes to running back, the Raiders appear to be leaning heavily towards “sorry.”