November 17, 2017. 44 games. Samaje Perine.
That was the last time the Saints allowed a 100-yard rusher, during the Saints memorable comeback win against the Washington Football Team. Since then, the Saints have faced a myriad of impressive running backs, the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley when he still had knees, and Christian McCaffrey four times. Every single one of them has been held to under 100 yards, and the Saints run defense will have another tough test this Monday night when they face the Raiders’ second-year back Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs has managed a sensational start to his career. A first round pick out of Alabama in 2019, Jacobs tallied 242 runs for 1,150 yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie season, which led to him being named the [somewhat controversial] runner-up to Kyler Murray for Offensive Rookie of the Year (with many thinking he should’ve won the award over the Cardinals quarterback). Last season alone, Jacobs rushed for 100 yards five times and he came damn close last weekend, rushing for 93 in the Raiders’ season-opener against the Carolina Panthers.
How the Raiders can successfully run the ball
Like previously mentioned, Josh Jacobs is good. Very good. So good, in fact, that he forced 10 missed tackles last week, more than any other running back in the NFL. If we take a look at this run right here, this is an outside zone run to the left that nearly get blown up in the backfield. Gabe Jackson (#61) gets beat off the snap and can’t quite contain Derrick Brown (#95), who hits Jacobs in the backfield for what should’ve been a three-yard loss. Instead Jacobs wiggles free of the tackle, makes another man miss on the outside and gets seven yards on the play.
This was Jacobs’ most successful run of the afternoon, a 14-yard run early in the second quarter, and it emphasizes the best way the Raiders can run against the Saints, and that’s running outside the tackles. The Panthers put seven in the box, so the Raiders ran to the outside and got Jacobs into space, where he’s most lethal.
Just another example of Jacobs making something out of nothing. With left tackle Kolton Miller getting beat on the inside, Jacobs bounces to the outside, has a quick stutter step to throw off Jeremy Chinn (#21) and force him to miss before fighting through contact from Juston Burris (#31) to finish off this 12-yard run.
How the Saints can stop the Raiders rushing attack
First and foremost, the Saints have to wrap up Josh Jacobs. From the examples shown above, this is much easier said than done. Like previously mentioned, Jacobs finished with more avoided tackles than any RB in the NFL last week, and his 81 yards after contact were second to only Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He’s a tough man to bring down and it’s part of the reason why he’s been so good in his short NFL career to date.
The most successful plays that the Saints made against the run this past weekend were plays where Tampa tried to run it right up the gut into a stacked Saints box. If the Raiders attempt to do that then the Saints will have little issues with Jacobs or whoever Las Vegas tries to run the ball with. That being said, the Saints defense is still capable of making plays on outside runs.
For example, Malcom Roach (#97) blowing up this run attempt from Ronald Jones with this tackle for a loss after beating the right guard off the line of scrimmage. This is a similar set up to what we saw with the first Jacobs run earlier, except Jones was unable to shake off his tackler while Jacobs was. Winning battles like this will be key for the Saints.
Then of course, there’s the great ruiner of offenses Cameron Jordan (#94), who destroys another outside run attempt by Fournette for a loss of four yards.
The big battle in this matchup will be to contain Josh Jacobs and to not let him get into opener space, because he will ruin your day if he does. This will be especially prevalent to Chauncy C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson and Janoris Jenkins, who each missed a pair of tackles in the opener vs Tampa Bay when facing running backs with far less proficiency in avoiding tackles.