Justin Rogers and John Niyo break down the Lions' upcoming road game with the Raiders. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park – He may not yet have the name recognition of Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley.
But for Josh Jacobs, at this rate, it’ll come soon.
The Raiders rookie running back already has the attention of the Lions’ defense leading into Sunday’s matchup in Oakland.
“He’s a really good back,” Lions linebacker Jahlani Tavai said. “He wants to get contact, and luckily we love to be in contact, as well, as defensive players. It’s another challenge we’re ready to accept, so it’s going to be fun.
“You can’t flinch with any challenge, and we accept any challenge that lies ahead of us.”
Jacobs, picked 24th overall out of Alabama in the draft, will have to get through a couple Crimson Tide players on Sunday with defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand on the task. Hand played his first game of the season against the New York Giants last week since injuring his elbow in training camp, tackling Barkley three times.
“I think Da’Shawn played pretty consistent,” defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “He’s got a ways to go, certainly, but it was great to have him.”
Jacobs is fifth in the NFL at 88.6 rushing yards per game and, according to SportsBettingDime.com, has become this week the betting favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. The website tracks averages from major online sports books, noting that Jacobs this week became the first non-quarterback favorite of the season.
Jacobs is trying to become the third straight running back to win the award, joining Alvin Kamara of New Orleans in 2017 and Barkley last year.
After Cook gouged Detroit for 142 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago, the Lions had success against Barkley in a 31-26 victory, holding him to 64 yards and the Giants to 80 in total – the first time Detroit kept its opponent in double-digits.
“It seems like every week we face these teams that just run the ball really well – great running back, big offensive linemen, great scheme,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “So we’re going to have to try to put together another great effort to do everything we can to try to stop them.”
Pasqualoni complimented complementary backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, but heaped the most praise on Jacobs, who had consecutive outings of 120 yards or more against Chicago and Green Bay last month.
“He’s a terrific player. Really, really powerful, breaks a lot of tackles,” Pasqualoni said. “Makes a lot of yards you’d think he’d miss. A really stout, thick guy.”
He’s also tough to track, as Pro Football Focus has Jacobs atop its elusive ratings, which tracks missed tackles forced and yards after contact.
The Raiders (3-4) also have the league’s fourth-best offensive line in the Football Outsiders metric of Adjusted Line Yards.
In the offseason, Oakland signed veteran lightning rod guard Richie Incognito from Buffalo and tackle Trent Brown from New England, a team with which Patricia is very familiar.
“He is a big ginormous tackle who can really get the edge or knock guys around, and really gets the ball going downhill,” Patricia said of the 6-foot-8, 380-pound Brown, part of a unit that averages 336.0 pounds across Sunday’s five expected starters.
The Oakland line also has not allowed a sack in three straight games and four times this season, holding the Bears sack-less in Week 5 for just the second time since 2017.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.