The Oakland Raiders are in a surprising spot at the halfway point of their season. At 4-4, they are in second place in the AFC West and just two games behind the Kansas City Chiefs. The offense is getting hot at just the right time as the Raiders will attempt to pull away from the Los Angeles Chargers and gain ground on the Chiefs on Thursday night. These are three specific Week 10 TNF Raiders rookies to watch.
The bell cow
The biggest rookie impact by far has been running back Josh Jacobs. A part-time player at Alabama alongside starter Damien Harris, Jacobs has already surpassed Raiders legend Marcus Allen’s rookie rushing total, in one less game no less. He’s currently seventh in the league in rushing with 740 yards and six touchdowns. The part-time college player has become the focal point of the Raiders’ offense.
It is Jacobs’ Offensive Share Metric (OSM) that shows his true value to the Raiders thus far. Pro Football Network’s OSM breaks down who is playing a significant role in the production of an offense. The formula goes beyond traditional statistical analysis to show a player’s contribution to their team based on individual factors only that player can control. It is graded on a 100-point scale, though this is nearly impossible to achieve as it would mean a player threw the ball, then caught it and somehow also rushed with it simultaneously.
Jacobs’ OSM score shows consistent production all season. What’s more impressive is he’s been doing it behind an offensive line that has been shuffled around all season. The starting unit, riddled with injuries, has played just ten snaps together all season long.
OSM Grading Scale
Very Good: 30-39
Poor: 9 and below
The rising star
It isn’t just the offensive line that has been reshuffled. The Antonio Brown fiasco left free agent Tyrell Williams as the de facto number one receiver, and he’s been limited with a foot injury. It has opened up opportunities for fifth-round rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow. In the past two weeks, Renfrow has 10 receptions for 142 yards and two TDs.
Last week, Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown with just 2:04 left in a 31-24 shootout with the Detroit Lions. He’s becoming a go-to target for quarterback Derek Carr, as he should be. Renfrow is catching everything that comes his way. His 10 receptions in the past two weeks are on 11 targets, a 90.9 catch percentage. Renfrow is becoming known for this kind of clutch performance. In 2017 he caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to help Clemson defeat Alabama in the college football national championship game.
Renfrow secures the lead ?? pic.twitter.com/AItaYrPRqS
— Raiders on NBCS (@NBCSRaiders) November 3, 2019
The unsung hero
Tight end Foster Moreau is a willing and accomplished run blocker, which is a big reason why the Raiders selected him in the fourth round. His surprising effectiveness as a receiver has allowed Oakland to open up their offense despite limited depth at wide receiver. Starting TE Darren Waller is the Raiders leading receiver by a wide margin, but the emergence of Moreau has allowed Oakland to keep defenses on their toes with two TE sets.
Though Waller is Carr’s preferred option out of that formation, Moreau has an impressive 14 receptions for 134 yards and three TDs through eight games. To put that in perspective, Moreau is arguably having a better season than Baltimore Ravens 2018 first-round TE Hayden Hurst (16 rec., 156 yards, and just one TD) Moreau’s development as a receiver has added a new wrinkle to an improving Raiders offense.
A championship mindset
The fact that both Jacobs and Renfrow appeared in last year’s college football national championship game is no accident. Just a week after being named Raiders general manager, Mike Mayock attended the Alabama-Clemson game to scout players. A day after the game, he walked into head coach Jon Gruden’s office and said of Jacobs, “Jon, this could be one of our picks right here.”
Mayock and Gruden would end up selecting four players from the CFP title game (Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell and cornerback CB Trayvon Mullen along with Jacobs and Renfrow). Gruden called the approach an attempt to build a championship mindset and a winning culture within the Raiders organization. At 4-4, a win on TNF against divisional foe Los Angeles would get them one step closer to a possible AFC West division title.
Travis Yates is a writer for PFN. You can find him @TheTravisYates on Twitter.