The Las Vegas Raiders are adding to their offensive arsenal in what could be a telling season for head coach Jon Gruden in the midst of his decade-long contract. The franchise has already made several offseason moves to build on their very slow-growing success over the last two seasons.
Las Vegas had a better-than-average rushing attack in 2020 with Josh Jacobs, who finished the season with the third-most carries (273) in the NFL. The Raiders averaged nearly 120 yards per game with Jacobs and Devontae Booker carrying the bulk of the load. With Booker now in New York, Las Vegas filled the roster hole by adding Kenyan Drake in free agency after he spent one and a half seasons in Arizona.
Drake’s output with the Cardinals was a storyline heading into last season and is once again a question heading into the 2021 season with the Raiders and Jacobs. Drake is already slated to be the team’s difference-maker, and his solid output in Arizona supports another step in his development out of the backfield. Drake didn’t reach the illustrious 1,000-yard mark last year, but he was close. In 15 games, Drake rushed for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns. He helped improve the Cardinals’ rushing attack and was a reliable pass-catching option out of the backfield.
There’s no question the Raiders’ offense is better with more depth, specifically more reliable running back depth. Booker’s meager 493 yards can be doubled by Drake, but how many touches will that take?
Drake’s output last season was the best of his five-year career. In 15 games, he averaged 15.9 carries. Jacobs, who played 15 games last season, averaged 18.2 carries; in 2019, Jacobs averaged 18.6 carries. Drake is the clear RB2 here as Las Vegas will continue to utilize the ultra-consistent Jacobs, but the plan is to divvy out touches in the style of many NFL offenses. Teams have been gravitating to a run-by-committee approach, save for the Tennessee Titans, as air assaults are the go-to for big plays. Gruden expressed his desire to use that same approach, harking on running the Raiders’ past committees.
“Doug Martin had 190 touches three years ago when [Marshawn] Lynch went down,” Gruden said in mid-May.
“DeAndre Washington had 144 touches when Jacobs went down two years ago. And this past year, Josh went down and Booker got  touches. So we’re going to try to circulate the touches Drake’s way. He’s a guy that’s made big plays.”
Now with 17 games in a season, Drake’s presence will help keep Jacobs’ legs fresh and allow for more playmaking as Jacobs was not heavily used as a pass-catcher in his rookie or sophomore campaigns. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Drake would get 10-15 carries per game, similar to what he produced last season. While Gruden’s own line of thought is centered around potential injury concerns, Las Vegas can effectively spread out the touches with a healthy Jacobs and Drake in rotation. The team’s best bet is to ramp up the passing game, which Drake can have a big role in.
The Raiders are hoping to compete with the powerhouses in the AFC, and Drake’s addition can help them do that if they’re able to plan and execute their scheme with a new and improved running back room.