Josh Jacobs made it clear Sunday that he wants to return to the Raiders next season.
He also acknowledged it’s not entirely his choice.
“However it plays out, it plays out,” the running back said after a 27-14 victory over the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium. “But 100 percent I want to be here. Especially with (Antonio Pierce) as the head coach.”
Jacobs missed his fourth straight game with a quadriceps injury, but spent his time on the sidelines in street clothes sharing knowledge with his replacement, Zamir White, and cheering his teammates.
Jacobs, a 2019 first-round pick, did his best to avoid looking around the stadium and pondering whether Sunday could have been his final game with the only professional organization he has known. He has a chance to potentially test the free-agent market in the offseason.
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I still have another month-and-a-half of rehab. So I’ve just tried to enjoy the guys and the coaching staff.”
Jacobs has been through this before. His status was uncertain after last season, but he was eventually slapped with a franchise tag that limited his options. The Raiders have that tool available again but are unlikely to use it.
A lot can change between now and that March 5 deadline, however. The team currently has an interim coach in Pierce and an interim general manager in Champ Kelly. Those positions will have to be fortified before the futures of any players can be determined.
Jacobs said he did take time to appreciate that regardless of his future, the locker room will change.
“Next year, it will be different for a lot of guys no matter what,” he said. “Hopefully we keep (Pierce) and a lot of the guys from the coaching staff. But I just let them all know it’s been an honor to play with them and learn with them. The last month of the season has been real special as a group and a team.”
That change will be good in at least one area, Jacobs said. He alluded to the fact that former general manager Dave Ziegler and former coach Josh McDaniels, who both handled his contract situation last offseason, are no longer in the mix.
He believes that alone can make this a smoother process.
“I don’t feel like it’s going to be that bad because I’ll be dealing with a different group of guys,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I love the people in the locker room, I love the city. So we’ll let the chips fall however they may, but it’s definitely been a blessing and an honor to be here.”
White shines again
White has taken advantage of his opportunity in four starts filling in for Jacobs.
He ran for 112 yards Sunday and became the first player in franchise history to surpass the 100-yard plateau twice in his first four starts.
“That means a lot to me,” White said. “The linemen blocked great, and we just had fun. We take that brotherhood very seriously.”
On multiple occasions, the crowd broke out in an extended “Zeus” chant, using his nickname in a similar way to how it was chanted during his college games at Georgia.
“I didn’t hear it because I was so zoned out on the field,” he said. “But back in college, I used to hear it. I love it. It’s crazy, bro. Raider nation, keep doing that for me. Please.”
Cornerback Jack Jones made a tremendous defensive play in the third quarter, getting back to the deep middle to break up what looked like a potential Broncos touchdown on a deep ball.
He wasn’t satisfied, though.
“I have to make that play,” he said, upset he didn’t intercept the pass. “I had in my head I was going to one-hand it. I missed the opportunity. I can’t play with my food. I have to eat that.”
It actually worked out better for the Raiders, as they got a fourth-down stop two plays later and had even better field position.
Malcolm Koonce recorded another sack and finished with eight in nine games under Pierce. He had two in 20 career games before the coaching switch.
“He definitely had something to do with it,” Koonce said. “The whole atmosphere changed. The message was to be yourself and play how you play.”