Accomplished RB Josh Jacobs still believes there’s more to prove on Packers

By: Paul Bretl 6/3/24

Josh Jacobs comes to the Green Bay Packers as a very accomplished running back, however, now on a new team, Jacobs still believes that he has plenty to prove.

The desire for Jacobs to show what he can do is twofold. Although Jacobs is a former All-Pro, NFL rushing leader, and team captain for the Raiders, those accolades are just that, accolades, even though they are impressive ones. His new teammates didn’t see the work that went into playing at that high level or what it took to earn the respect of his former teammates.

Jacobs wants to be a leader on this young Packers team but knows that is an honor that’s earned and not just handed out, regardless of what a player has done at their previous stops. So, as Jacobs nurses a hamstring injury during voluntary OTAs, is it a requirement that he be on the practice field, or is doing so a prerequisite for a successful season? Not really. But Jacobs is out to prove that he has the right mentality and work ethic to be a leader.

“Yeah, I do,” said Jacobs when asked if he needs to be on the practice field. “Because these guys haven’t seen me on the day to day. Sometimes you see the end result, but you don’t see the work it takes to get there. Like I said, trying to be a leader on this team with this young group, and I feel like you’ve got to show and prove a certain mentality, certain demeanor and certain work ethic, for a lot of guys that want to take that next step. Especially with being there before, a lot of guys don’t really know how to do that.

“I tell people all the time, having Davante Adams come to the Raiders was the best thing for me, because I seen a player be great, and I seen a player be great on a day to day basis, so for me, that’s what I try to bring.”

As much as Jacobs has accomplished during the regular season, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do the same in the playoffs. During Jacobs five years with the Raiders, he made the playoffs only one time, when Rich Bisaccia was the interim head coach in 2021.

Jacobs would impress, as he often does, carrying the ball 13 times at 6.4 yards per attempt in that playoff loss. But to Jacobs, he judges talent on how a player performs when it matters most, and 13 career playoff carries at this point in his career haven’t allowed him to meet the standards that he’s set for himself, and in order to get to that point, it requires the team to win games.

“For me, when you judge, when I judge let me say that, when I judge running backs or just players in general, it’s like OK, yeah you can be good, but are you good when it matters?” said Jaocbs. “When it matters the most? In the biggest moments, in the biggest games, that’s where you leave your mark.

“Being a guy that has a lot of history and especially with the Raiders program, in the top three in almost every category since I’ve been there, it doesn’t really mean nothing because we didn’t win. Being able to leave a legacy is something that I think about now, being older. Playing playoff football and obviously trying to get a ring is the only thing that’s really on my mind.”

If needed, Jacobs can handle a heavy workload as a ball carrier, but he also brings a natural pass-catching ability to the running back position as well. Over five seasons with the Raiders, he was targeted in the passing game 249 times, and as Jacobs told Matt LaFleur when he first arrived to Green Bay, he believes he has more to offer in that regard.

Beyond the prerequisite of making plays as a ball carrier, the running back’s ability to not only impact the passing game but be moved around the formation is an important element of LaFleur’s offense as it can create mismatches for the running back to exploit, along with one-on-one opportunities in space, where Jacobs has excelled. During his All-Pro 2022 season, he ranked 11th in average yards after contact and first in missed tackles forced.

Jacobs could also benefit from being in an offense that features a potent passing game led by Jordan Love. The trickle-down effect of that to Jacobs is potentially facing more light boxes than what he’s been accustomed to as oftentimes the focal point of the opponent’s game plan.

“The thing that I like the most is how diverse it is—especially for me,” said Jacobs of LaFleur’s offense. “Like, we can line up wide, we can do dual backs, they have certain packages of personnel that allow me to win, put me in space and be able to win in space. And as a running back that’s all you ask for, get your 1-on-1 matchups and that’s where you can show how special you are.”

Following the Packers and Raiders Week 5 matchup last season, Jacobs said that he kept tabs on Green Bay for the remainder of the season, intrigued by the young, ascending talent this team had.

Now in Green Bay and a member of this Packers’ culture, Jacobs says the environment “brings a little juice back to you.” The all-football, all-the-time atmosphere reminds him of his college days at Alabama. And just as Jacobs did back then during his days in Tuscaloosa, where he developed into an eventual first-round pick, he still believes he has more to prove.

“I think that’s because the guys are so young,” said Jacobs on the similarities between the Packers and Alabama. “The guys that are older, the vets that are proven, like RG (Rashan Gary) and P (Preston Smith) and all these guys, they’re the type of guys that’s like they’re still going to go work and be humble. When you’ve got a young group that wants to make a name for themselves, you’ve got a group of guys that’s got a little edge, and they’re willing to listen and willing to do a little bit more, a little bit extra than normal.

“I think that’s just the special thing about this place. You’ve got a lot of group of young guys, like the receiving corps is crazy man. I’m so excited just watching them. Any one of them can go at any moment. We had that talk with them about taking the next step, who’s going to be the guy, who’s going to be the guy to step up and the man that wants a spot. I think we have a really good group, and I look forward to this season.”