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Raiders’ Josh Jacobs becoming better all-around back under Marcus Allen’s tutelage

HENDERSON, Nev. — Yeah, Josh Jacobs had goals this offseason.

Building on his first-year success, in which he set a Las Vegas Raiders franchise rookie rushing record? No doubt.

Becoming a more well-rounded player? Absolutely.

Catching 60 passes? Wait, what?

Indeed, the second-year running back set the bar high for himself in training camp. Because with two receivers taken in the draft in Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end in Darren Waller and a back in Jalen Richard whose specialty is to, well, catch passes, there are only so many balls to go around.

Not that Jacobs cares much, mind you. Besides, he has a low-key guru in the wings. Guy he talks to on the regular. A name very familiar to Raiders fans. And yes, one of the most complete backs in NFL history, a back who was as adept at running the ball as he was catching it and, yes, even throwing it on occasion.

So yeah, when Jacobs went airborne over the pile for a touchdown at Kansas City last week, visions of Marcus Allen danced through more than Raiders fans’ heads. Allen himself has been in Jacobs’ head.

“I just ask him little pointers, what can I do better?” Jacobs said of his weekly phone conversations and/or texts with Allen. “I’m just happy to have a great mentor like him, a Hall of Famer that is just mentoring me and taking me under his wing. Giving me coaching points is huge to me.

“I mean, when I seen the defense fall, our guys cut them at the line, I already knew what I was going to do. I’m just happy that I fell in the end zone.”

Going over the top was a staple of Allen’s game, dating to his time as a Heisman Trophy winner at USC. Jacobs, meanwhile, was never truly the feature back at Alabama, but the Raiders used the No. 24 pick on him in the 2019 NFL draft (a selection garnered in the Khalil Mack trade) and have not looked back.

Neither has Jacobs. Despite missing three of the Raiders’ last four games last season with a fractured shoulder suffered in Week 7, Jacobs still rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 166 yards.

Through five games this season, Jacobs is on pace for 1,206 rushing yards, 16 rushing TDs and … 48 catches.

From 1983 through 1987 Allen averaged 59 catches … to go with an average of 1,090 rushing yards and nine rushing TDs.

Raiders running back coach Kirby Wilson said Allen’s sessions are “mentally preparing [Jacobs] on how to read defenses, understanding the front. Having that recognition in pre-snap and, obviously, the post-snap, you’ve got your read and key, and it goes from there. They’ve got a great dialogue going on. I know Josh is extremely happy that they’re communicating and I think it’s going to only improve him as we move forward.”

Such as when Jacobs closed out the Chiefs in Kansas City, with Richard and Devontae Booker imploring him in a fourth-quarter timeout: “It’s time. Take us home.”

“For those kind of guys, it just takes opportunities,” Wilson said of Jacobs stepping into the featured back role. “And he’s getting those opportunities now. He had an entire offseason to work on his passing game — by himself — understanding what we needed from him.

“And then once football restarted, he was in the receivers room asking a bunch of questions, with the wideouts, talking to [receivers coach] Edgar Bennett about when you’re detached on splits, how to read coverages when you are detached and out of the backfield. We’ve always worked on those aspects when he’s behind the line of scrimmage, so it’s opportunity. It’s him understanding his role and he’s making the most of it right now.”

Allen and Jacobs hit it off at a Las Vegas charity softball game in the summer of 2019. And after Jacobs went over the pile for a score in the Raiders’ season-opening win over the Denver Broncos last year, Allen took to Twitter.

So, what exactly do Jacobs and Allen talk about?

“Everything. Everything. Literally,” Jacobs said. “When it comes to pass-blocking, staying inside-out. Learning how, on the runs, making sure I know everything that the offensive line is doing, the receivers are doing, who’s blocking who. The rotations of the safeties.

“Not only that, he’s one of the best goal-line, short-yardage runners that I’ve seen, that I’ve watched tape on. So I try to ask him, how do I mimic certain things about that, too. He just gives me pointers — how to be a leader. He tells me all the time, if something ain’t right, don’t be afraid to speak up. And if practice ain’t going right, start the practice over. He’s just trying to teach me how to be a pro and how to take that next step.”

Whether that step is over the pile, or around it.

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