Looking at the Las Vegas Raiders 2020 offensive stats, a few statistics of interest emerge. For starters, running back Josh Jacobs finished third in the NFL in rushing attempts (273). This stat alone may not seem particularly interesting or surprising. Yet, how it influences and helps shed light on the play of Jacobs’ teammates.
While Jacobs flashes his potential as a bellcow back, Derek Carr threw less. Although this trend tends to hinder a quarterback’s season-long stats, Carr finished 11th in the NFL for passing yards. Again, not particularly impressive, but this requires a deeper look.
Sure, Carr finished 11th in passing yards, but he finished 14th in pass attempts. Noteworthy Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finished with a little over 400 yards more than Carr, but it took him 109 additional pass attempts. Running the numbers, if Carr had attempted the same number of throws as Ryan, Carr would have completed a league-leading 419 completions. When the general population of the league has their eyes dialed in on quarterbacks as the faces of franchises, a good-quarterback, dominant-running back combination can be overshadowed by players like Deshawn Watson and Russell Wilson that have low-production backfields to share touches with.
Aaron Rodgers heard his name thrown around MVP considerations, yet finished seventh in the NFL’s passing yards race. Should the Packers not have had one of the most dominating running backs in the league in Aaron Jones, there is a safe assumption that the 2020 MVP race would have been significantly less contested. The point is that some teams are not destined to be significantly pass-heavy teams. Even as the NFL shifts more and more towards a pass-dominated league, rushing-oriented teams can still succeed. Ryan Tannehill may have emerged as a high-level quarterback last season, but the Titans reached the playoffs on the back of Derrick Henry and a stifling defense.
Reality Crushes Hope
It would be nice to witness Carr step up and earn an MVP or any sort of yearly award, but that is not in the game plan for Carr and the Raiders. and frankly, it probably would not be the game plan with any quarterback and the Raiders. While the addition of Watson would certainly be a step up from Carr, would head(strong) coach Jon Gruden adjust his gameplan to let the passer thrive while Jacobs watches his minutes slip away? It is hard to say for sure, but seeing that Gruden has yet to change his failing red zone scheme, it is entirely possible Jacobs will average top-5 carries in the NFL regardless of who is under center. The Raiders must continue to strive towards a better balance. It works in the playoffs.