As Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski put it, "The best of the best want the ball in their hands during critical moments. They don't shy away from the limelight or shrink when they're needed the most.
"And when everyone on the field knows they're getting the ball, it becomes a battle of wills to determine who will win."
With this is in mind, Sobleski notes that running back Josh Jacobs
showed Thursday he's a transcendent talent in leading the 5-4 Oakland Raiders to a 26-24 victory over the rival Los Angeles Chargers at RingCentral Coliseum.
Jacobs has already established himself as an elite NFL running back and the runaway favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year through nine games.
His overall stats are important, but those will take a backseat for a moment. Sobleski contends that everything anyone needed to know about Jacobs and how he's viewed within the Raiders organization can be exacted from one play.
The coaching staff's growing trust in Jacobs is evident. The Raiders needed one yard to extend the game. They didn't try to hide that they were going to run the ball by lining up in an I-formation. The coaches put the ball in their best player's hands, and he delivered.
Oakland's offensive line blocked the play extremely well. The first potential tackler didn't get near Jacobs until four or five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Kudos to left guard Richie Incognito and center Rodney Hudson for blowing open the hole by resetting the point of attack and getting to the second level on a well-executed ace block.
Any professional back should be able to hit a hole that wide-open and get enough yards for the first down. The next step shows where Jacobs excels. According to Yahoo Sports' Brad Evans, the rookie entered Thursday's contest as the league's leader in yards after contact per attempt and elusive rating.
Sobleski believes that stat is indicative of the first-year back's greatest strength: Jacobs is a patient yet decisive runner. He picks and chooses his way through opposing defenses while finishing runs with authority. He's not easy to tackle, and he'll rarely provide defenders with a flush target.
Jacobs now averages 18.7 carries per game. After Oakland's Week 9 win against the Detroit Lions, he became the only back in the last seven years with two games of 25 or more carries and no negative runs, according to the Associated Press' Josh Dubow. He's always going forward and delivering blows instead of accepting them.
"That dude is incredible," tight end Darren Waller
said last week, per NBCSportsBayArea.com's Scott Bair. "He runs the ball with such energy that you feel like you have to match that. We don't want to just see him make great plays. We want to make great plays with him and help him do what he does. We all take on that attitude and let him be featured because that dude is the real deal."
His usage has led to outstanding production.
Jacobs already broke Marcus Allen's franchise rookie rushing record, and he's fourth in the league with 811 yards. He's also in the top five in carries (168) and rushing touchdowns (seven).
No other rookie back compares. Pro Football Focus graded Jacobs as the league's best back before the Chargers contest. He also entered Week 10 as the league's second-most effective runner against loaded boxes, according to the site. The Chicago Bears' David Montgomery
ranks second among first-year runners with 406 rushing yards. No rookie is within 400 yards of Jacobs' total.
Jacobs is a work in progress as a receiver. He can be better as both a target and blocker in obvious passing situations. Currently, the Raiders like to bring in their veteran options for that role, but Jacobs caught three passes for a career-high 30 yards against the Chargers. Even as a developmental receiver, Jacobs still ranks third among rookie backs in receptions (14) and receiving yards (132).
The Raiders came into this year with a lot of hype surrounding their wide receiver corps. They had Antonio Brown
and Tyrell Williams
to open up the offense and let Carr pick apart opposing secondaries.
Planned or not, Jacobs has become the franchise's focal point. The 21-year-old hasn't flinched, and one play was all it took to show he's special.
And this week, Jacobs and the rest of the Raiders get a great matchup.
As NFL.com's Michael Fabiano notes, the rookie faces an awful Bengals run defense that's allowed 12 total scores and nearly 29 fantasy points per game to backs.
ESPN's Al Zeidenfeld chime in by noting Jacobs' volume in the high-value areas (in the red zone and inside the five) has been outstanding. He is tied for fourth in the league in red-zone carries and tied for eighth in the league in carries inside the five-yard line.
ESPN's Matthew Berry added, "He's a top-three play for me this week."
Jacobs stands as RB4 on this week's FSP Staff RB Rankings
Meanwhile, it's also worth noting that Carr has multiple scores in three of his past four outings, and Oakland is up to 10th in the NFL with 2.16 points scored per drive.
According to ESPN.com's Jim McCormick, the Raiders have scored a touchdown this season on 26.7 percent of drives, the seventh-highest rate in the league
Therefore, we have a widely available quarterback of a top-10 scoring offense facing a Bengals team ceding 2.4 points per drive to opponents -- the fifth-worst rate in football.
Beyond that, ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft points out the Bengals have surrendered the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (23.1), despite the fact that they've seen the fewest passing plays per game (30.3). Specifically, the Bengals have served up a league-worst 12.3 yards after the catch per attempt on throws at or behind the line of scrimmage, partly a product of their linebackers' lack of speed, as well as a league-worst 124.3 passer rating on vertical throws (15-plus yards thrown beyond the line of scrimmage), signaling their cornerbacks' struggles in coverage.
Carr has a trio of capable pass-catching running backs to exploit the former, and he has been quite successful attempting the latter, as his 113.9 passer rating on vertical passes is fifth best in the league.
In other words, don't be afraid to make the pivot to Carr if you find yourself with issues at the position.
And don't be surprised if this is the week Waller gets back on track.
As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, the tight end was held to a 3-40-0 receiving line on five targets against the Chargers in Week 10 and has now has three or fewer catches in three consecutive games.
In fact, Waller has failed to clear 53 receiving yards during five of his past six games.
The drop in production is obviously a concern, but Clay reports the good news is that Waller's role hasn't otherwise changed. He has been on the field for 91 percent of Oakland's offensive snaps and has run a route on 81 percent of the pass plays. Waller is a strong bet for a rebound game in Week 11 with the struggling Bengals in town.