At this time last year, Josh McDaniels was preparing to lead his Las Vegas Raiders onto the field for the first time in the Hall of Fame Game.
Once the Silver and Black took the field, Josh Jacobs played multiple series while other skill position starters sat and he tallied an eyebrow-raising seven touches as part of a surprising and somewhat mystifying preseason performance.
Coming in the aftermath of the Raiders declining Jacobs' fifth-year option, questions abounded as to if this was a clue to what lied ahead for the back. Turns out it did. Jacobs was a workhorse for the Raiders en route to winning the NFL rushing crown and his first All-Pro accolade.
With the preseason's first game set to kick off Thursday, Jacobs and the Raiders remain in a Las Vegas standoff, with McDaniels seemingly waiting with welcoming arms wide open whenever his bell cow back returns.
"I think everybody loves and respects JJ (Jacobs) and understands the process," McDaniels said Monday, via Sports Illustrated’s Gilberto Gilberto Manzano. "I certainly do. And I've said it a million times this year: I love the player and the person, and I understand the process he's going through. We're going to work as hard as we can with the guys that are here every day, and ultimately when he's back, we're going to look forward to getting him back and integrated into the group."
In 10 seasons of NFL play, Abdullah has 1,594 rushing yards. He's the leading career ground gainer among the current Raiders RB stable sans Jacobs, and his career yards are 59 fewer than Jacobs' league-leading 1,653 last year.
Jacobs is a difference-maker, and though veterans Bolden and Abdullah have experience aplenty, there's nobody at the ready for the Raiders who portends to replace Jacobs' contributions.
Amid an offseason in which the plight of underpaid running backs has come to the forefront, Jacobs was one of the frontrunners. He, the New York Giants' Saquon Barkley and the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Pollard each had the franchise tag applied to them, and none of them received long-term extensions. Jacobs, however, is the only one of the trio who's yet to report to camp.
Along the way, the Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor has requested a trade ahead of his contract year with no talks of an extension underway, the Los Angeles Chargers' Austin Ekeler received a reworked final year after his own trade request and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Najee Harris suggested a reworked tag for running backs.
As the RB pay scale debate will no doubt carry on beyond this season, Jacobs' issue in the here and now is confined to 2023. He can sign his $10.091 million tender and play on it. He can work out a new one-year deal ala Barkley. Or he can sit out.
At the moment, there seems to be no end in sight, but McDaniels is waiting and looking forward to Jacobs' return to the practice field -- whenever that might be.