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Las Vegas Raiders roster review: Running backs

The 2021-22 NFL season has come to an end for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Despite everything that happened to the team both on and off the field, the Silver and Black won 10 games and made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. It was the team’s second season in Las Vegas and first with fans in attendance at Allegiant Stadium.

This is the beginning of a 12-part series where we look back at the players and their futures with the Raiders.

Today, we start with the running backs.

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Josh Jacobs

las vegas raiders' josh jacobs
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Since Josh Jacobs’ rookie season in 2019, he has been the lead back in the Raiders’ offense. In Jacobs’ first two seasons, he reached the 240-carry and 1,000-rushing yard plateaus.

However, a slow start due to multiple injuries limited the third-year rusher to not reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career.

YearGamesCarriesRush YardsYPRTD
201913 (13)24211504.87
202015 (15)27310653.912
2021  15 (14)2178724.09

In 2021, Jacobs did not record his first 100-rushing yard game until Wek 16 when he totaled 27 carries for 129 in a 17-13 win against Denver. He followed that up two weeks later and got a career-high 132 yards on the ground in the wild overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers to close out the regular season.

One of the bright spots for Jacobs this season has been a rise in the passing game. After catching 33 passes on 47 targets in 2020, the 23-year-old eclipsed the 50-reception mark for the first time in his career as he caught 54 passes for 348 yards.

Whether the drop in touches was due to foot and chest injuries earlier in the year, the young offensive line or the addition of Kenyan Drake, the Las Vegas Raiders need to figure out how to get more volume to him for 2022.

The questions remains if Greg Olson will be the offensive coordinator in 2022 or not, but Jacobs has the opportunity to be a bell cow running back in the future and a possible piece the Raiders could continue to build around with others.

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Kenyan Drake

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Drake came to Las Vegas during last offseason after making stops in Miami and Arizona. He was the Cardinals’ primary running back in 2020, recording 1,092 total yards and 10 touchdowns.

Despite suffering a season-ending ankle injury a few weeks ago, Drake became a viable backup to Jacobs and helped out the run game.

In three games this past season, the 6-foot-1 rusher recorded more than five receptions per game and recorded more than five targets in a game four times.

Two of his three touchdowns this past season came against the Broncos in Week 6, which was the first week Olson took over the play calling.

Overall, Drake, who came the Raiders to benefit the offense in the passing game as a running back, recorded just 30 catches across 40 targets for 291 yards and a touchdown. In the run game, Drake posted 63 carries for 254 yards through 12 games in 2021.

The 27-year-old will finish his two-year deal next season and with a full rehab to be ready in 2022, Drake and Jacobs need to see the ball more often.

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Peyton Barber

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After being released by the Washington Football Team a couple weeks before the start of the regular season, Peyton Barber was signed to the Las Vegas Raiders’ practice squad a few days later and was promoted to the 53-man roster the following day.

Barber found himself as the team’s No. 3 running back when Drake and Jacobs were healthy. When either were not good to go, Barber filled in as the backup.

In the early part of the season, Barber saw the field against Pittsburgh and Miami when Jacobs was dealing with an ankle injury.

As Drake and Barber were newcomers to this Raiders offense, they were able to step up in Jacobs’ absence.

Barber saw his highest production come against Miami in the Raiders’ 31-28 victory, where the 27-year-old rushed the ball 23 times for 111 yards and touchdown. He also recorded three receptions on five targets for 31 yards.  

Since Drake injured his ankle against Washington, Barber filled in as the team’s backup behind Jacobs. His work has started to increase over the last five games.

After getting four total touches against Washington and at Kansas City combined, the 5-foot-11 rusher recorded five carries for 34 yards and one catch for 12 yards in the Raiders’ 16-14 win at Cleveland and five rushes for 22 yards against Denver.

Jalen Richard

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Only two players from the Raiders’ 2016 playoff team were on this year’s team. Quarterback Derek Carr and running back Jalen Richard.

In addition, Richard was the only player on this year’s team that played in the 2016 Wild Card Game against Houston. Carr was sidelined for the team’s 2016 playoff game due to an ankle injury.

In 2021, Richard was the team’s third-down running back and saw action across 10 games — both on offense and on special teams as a returner.   

As a running back, Richard’s biggest play of the season came against Los Angeles when he rushed for 23 yards to convert a third-and-23 and continue the drive which led to a touchdown right before halftime, en route to the 35-32 victory on Jan. 9.

Despite not playing much, the 5-foot-8 running back who went undrafted, was able to provide leadership to younger players and new Raiders this year.

In 2022, Jacobs and Drake will be in the backfield, while both Richard and Barber are free agents. Depending on who the new general manager and head coach will be, there is possibility Richard could return to remain as the team’s third down back. It is hard to picture all four returning next season.

Up next: Fullback

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