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Josh Jacobs emulated teammate to improve route-running

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs spent time in the offseason studying the habits of a certain wide receiver who is highly skilled at getting open and presenting a reliable target for the quarterback. He didn’t have to look far for tape.

Jacobs hoped to emulate a lot of what teammate Hunter Renfrow does from the slot, particularly his creativity on choice routes.

“I just wanted to find what I like and make it my own,” Jacobs said of studying Renfrow and other receivers as he worked to become a threat in the passing game. “Whether it was going outside in the slot and actually learning how to get off releases and stemming the guy and learning leverage and all of those kinds of things.”

All the work has started to pay off. Jacobs caught career-highs of four passes for 46 yards in Sunday’s 34-30 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Jacobs found one of the best perks of catching the ball in space instead of trying to run between the tackles is the room he has to operate.

“When I play receiver, I get a lot more chances to get into open space, so that’s always more fun,” said Jacobs, who broke two tackles on his four catches.

Jacobs also showed a willingness and ability to be effective in picking up blitzes, another factor in coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson being able to keep Jacobs on the field in all situations.

He played nearly 80 percent of the offensive snaps, a significant increase from his workload last season.

“They kind of give me free rein to sub myself in and out,” said Jacobs, who was awarded the “Hungriest Player of the Week” by a candy bar brand. “But when the game is on the line for me, I always want to be in the game. I always feel like I’m a game-changer, a difference-maker, regardless if I’m getting the ball or not.”

Quarterback Derek Carr is thrilled with the new weapon, particularly with how Jacobs’ ability as a receiver works in sync with the other aspects of the offense.

Carr believes the speed of Henry Ruggs forces defensive backfields to move back and Jacobs’ ability to run brings linebackers closer to the line, leaving plenty of available real estate for Jacobs to operate in the passing game.

The veteran quarterback credited Jacobs for dedicating himself so much to the craft.

“He obviously did some freaky things after the catch, but you have to take a step back and realize all the work he put in,” Carr said. “Even when he wasn’t going to be the guy that was going to run those routes, he would still be like, ‘Derek, can we work that? Can I do another one? Can we do it again? Tell me what you see.’ He wants to learn and know these things.”

Carlson earns award

Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career.

The third-year pro out of Auburn was perfect on his six kicks in Sunday’s opener at Carolina.

Carlson made four PATs and two field goals, including a career-long 54-yarder.

That kick was the longest field goal made in Week 1 in the AFC.

Carlson’s previous honor came in November 2018 when he made a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the Raiders a win at Arizona.

‘Cindy Gruden, Tiger Woods’

Carr laughed off a question about Jon Gruden’s comments this week that he was surprised Carr used Gruden’s wife’s name as an audible on Sunday.

“If y’all believe Coach Gruden doesn’t know my audibles, he’s got you guys fooled,” Carr said with a laugh. “This is his offense. I do surprise some of the coaches sometimes at practice with some of my audibles. That is one of them I surprised him with last year and he did enjoy it. He said, ‘Alright, that one can stick.’ I got some more up my sleeve.”

Keeping Carr clean

The Raiders didn’t allow a sack Sunday against Carolina, marking the fourth time since 1970 the franchise has accomplished the feat in a season-opener.

“I’m always confident in those guys,” Carr said of his offensive line. “I try my best to avoid sacks and help those guys out when I can. I actually got in trouble with intentional grounding trying to avoid the sack.”

Carr added he believes the zero-sack effort will give the Saints’ defense added motivation to come after him on Monday.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.