OAKLAND — Josh Jacobs’ perfectly executed 18-yard touchdown run that beat the Chargers Thursday night will long live in memory banks. The Raiders rookie reveled in that moment, with the crowd going wild in a 26-24 victory at Oakland Coliseum.
Jacobs also knows who was essential in setting up his big moment. Jalen Richard was that drive’s spark plug, with three crucial catches accounting for nearly half of that 75-yard drive.
“He’s just got that juice man,” Jacobs said. “He comes in, fresh legs, he knows what to do, he executes. He’s shifty in everything. He can do everything. He brings the spark every time he’s on the field.”
That has been the case this week when he was pivotal in game-winning drives against the Lions and Chargers.
“I have to give Jalen Richard a lot of credit,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He gives our offense a different dynamic.”
He can do that from a cold start.
Richard was a fringe player for most of this clash with the Chargers, with just two touches through the first 57 minutes.
But, with the game on the line, the Raiders running back became a go-to guy.
He got the drive going with an 11-yard catch. Then the Raiders reached midfield on a 10-yard reception that could’ve been bigger had he not stepped out of bounds. Then he caught a 9-yard catch over the middle that set up Jacobs’ big moment.
Richard’s totally comfortable in big moments, a state he has regularly found in his four professional seasons.
“There’s a level of calm and confidence, but I also like to put it on my shoulders in big moments,” Richard said. “I’m out there every third down, and that’s the most important down in football. That gives me confidence because the coaches trust me to make a play when we really need it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a carry, a catch or a block, I’m ready to perform. I’m confident in myself and my ability. When my number’s called, I’m going to go out there and make a play.”
Richard has fewer opportunities this year, with Jacobs heavily featured and DeAndre Washington as Plan B in the ground game. Richard has become a third-down back this season, working predominantly in obvious passing situations.
The 26-year old isn’t bitter about that. He knows Jacobs is awesome and has earned a heavy workload. He understands his role and how to thrive within it, even without the opportunities to find a good rhythm. New position coach Kirby Wilson has taught Richard how to build positive momentum without steady touches.
“He says that you should be able to get yourself in a rhythm,” Richard said. “There are certain rules and little things to get you going whether you get the ball or not. It’s about being in the right spot and drawing positivity from doing your job well. Knowing you did everything right increases your confidence for the next play.
“I’m not playing as much, but that allows me to go out there in big moments and find a quick rhythm.”
He has done that in consecutive games with the pressure on. Richard has always thrived in those moments, coming up big since his rookie year in 2016. The organization understands his value, with Gruden and Carr and Jacobs complimentary of the Raiders’ resident spark plug.
“When you can get everybody’s juices going, that’s huge,” Richard said. “This is a game of momentum, even on individual drives. Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to get everybody going. That’s what I try to do.”