The Raiders enter their Week 7 matchup against the Bears with a respectable 3-3 record, which on paper indicates they’d have a big edge against the 1-5 Bears. But the Raiders haven’t played the most awe-inspiring ball en route to their .500 record, with wins only coming against the lowly Broncos and Patriots, and a victory over the Packers as Jordan Love completed his descent back to Earth as a rookie quarterback.
A big reason the Raiders have looked so ho-hum is that their best players have not produced. Last season, running back Josh Jacobs was one of the most dynamic players in the league regardless of position. He led the league with 1,653 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Obviously he had a ton of volume, but still managed to run at a highly efficient level and averaged 4.86 yards per carry. This year is a different story. Jacobs ranks 20th in the NFL with 312 rushing yards, despite carrying just as big of a load on offense. His efficiency has crashed to just 2.92 YPC.
The Bears are still giving Jacobs the respect of a top-flight rusher, though.
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“I just think it’s some things they’ve got to get together as a team, but we’re not going to discount the run,” said nose tackle Andrew Billings. “They can get back to it any day.”
“He still runs hard,” said defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker. “Do not get me wrong, he still runs hard… He’s still Josh Jacobs, so you’ve gotta tackle him with a lot of might.”
Defensive line coach Travis Smith saw Jacobs up close and personal when he was a coach for the Raiders and detailed what it takes to bring him down.
“He’ll run through any arm tackles. You’ve gotta make sure you’re hamstring tackling him, running your feet through contact.”
Smith believes Jacobs’ down year has more to do with the situations the Raiders find themselves in, rather than any poor play on his part.
“When I see him, he’s no different from when I was with him those couple of years in Oakland and in Vegas.”
Safeties coach Andre Curtis sees Jacobs affecting the game in other ways.
"He’s catching the ball out of the backfield at a higher rate than he did last year. So, he’s still affecting defenses, but he’s doing it in a different way and, you know, he’s catching the ball and his run after catch in space is pretty tough when he starts to get the ball and get speed going against the defensive backs."
Then there’s Davante Adams. He’s been one of the premiere wide receivers in the NFL for nearly a decade, yet he ranks 12th in the league with 471 passing yards. Not bad numbers, per se, but Adams told Raiders media this week that he’s been unhappy with his role in the offense. He wants to make a bigger impact on games.
Those comments made cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke’s ears perk up, but the Bears aren’t going to change what they do philosophically to try to stymie Adams. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson always embraces the challenge of trying to shut down an opponent’s top pass catcher and has shadowed wide receivers in the past. But he hasn’t done that this year, and it doesn’t sound like the Bears are going to start doing it this week.
“They can always get away from the guy,” said Hoke. “All they have to do is put him in motion, so what’s the point? All they have to do is move him from point a to point b.”
When asked if the Bears would consider playing more man coverage to allow Johnson to follow Adams across the field, Hoke said no.
“They’ve got other guys too, so you’ve got to be smart about how you do the whole thing.”
Of course, Hoke could be hiding the Bears’ true intentions leading into the game. Regardless, the Bears are on notice after Adams’ comments.
“One of the best route runners to ever play this game,” said Walker. “Honestly, having a good gameplan for that guy and making sure that we keep him very limited is definitely a goal this week.”
The Bears defense played its best game of the season against the Justin Jefferson-less Vikings in Week 6. They want to build on that momentum. But to do that they’ll need to keep Jacobs and Adams under wraps, like the rest of the league has.