Oakland Raiders’ running back Marshawn Lynch had one of the least productive seasons of his career in 2017. With a new head coach and offense, many are wondering whether Lynch will return to All-Pro form or show signs of greater regression.
Marshawn Lynch shocked the NFL last offseason when he decided to apply for reinstatement into the league with dreams of joining his hometown Oakland Raiders. Many fans were jubilant when the news became official with the firm belief that they’d be seeing a re-charged version of “Beastmode”.
Lynch ended up playing in 15 games averaging 4.3 yards per carry with totals of 891 yards and 7 touchdowns. While his production was solid for any running back, particularly a 32 year old, it was clear that he had lost a step from his prime years with the Seattle Seahawks.
While Lynch may not possess the athletic ability that he used to, it’s clear on film that he still has plenty left in the tank for at least another season. He can still put a defender on his back and make him miss. There are plenty of plays from last season that remind you of some of Lynch’s finer career highlights.
Another thing to look at when considering Lynch’s future is Oakland’s talented and well-rounded group of running backs. The Raiders have five other running backs (not including full backs) who could easily take more touches away from Lynch next season.
To start off, there’s former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Doug Martin who’s had a roller coaster of a career. Martin’s been hurt or sidelined due to suspension in 68 out of a possible 96 games. However, he has two thousand-yard seasons, two Pro-Bowls, and a First-Team All-Pro appearance in 2015 to his name.
Martin only had one carry for three yards in the Raiders’ first preseason game against Detroit. As we have seen, though, preseason touches are rarely indicative of how carries will be split during the regular season. In a new environment, with a new head coach whose a very big supporter of Martin, don’t rule out a re-emergence of the star they used to refer to as “muscle hamster”.
Along with Martin and Lynch, there’s Jalen Richard who became a household name last season. In 2017, Richard complimented Lynch with his versatility and speed. The 24 year old tallied 275 yards on the ground with an outstanding average of 4.9 yards per carry. He also had 256 receiving yards making him the definition of a dual-threat running back.
Richard was underwhelming as a rusher against the Lions with 5 carries for just 13 yards. However, he made his mark in the passing game with 4 catches for 35 yards. It’d be very surprising if Richard was unable to build off of his 2017 season. His game fits the modern day mold of a feature back. His youth and durability make him a very enticing option compared to Lynch who’s at the tail end of his career.
If you thought that was all for the Raider’s rushers, think again. DeAndre Washington is another interesting, young back heading into his third season at 25 years old. He had a bit of a down year in 2017 averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. However, he did record 34 catches for 200 yards giving the Raiders another dual-threat option.
Also, don’t forget about Chris Warren. The undrafted rookie out of Texas had 86 rushing yards on just 13 carries this past Saturday night. He’s made plenty of noise in training camp looking as if he has a very good chance to stick around and play a role this season.
When you look at the Raiders’ group of running backs, outside of Marshawn Lynch, you see more youth, durability, and versatility than Lynch brings to the table. That said, Lynch being phased out in favor of the other backs seems like a very real possibility despite Lynch’s superior production last season.
While the talent around him doesn’t bode well for Lynch, it seems as if Head Coach Jon Gruden’s offense should. Gruden’s known for running a west-coast system more known for power-running schemes. His old-school style should really benefit Lynch as he’ll likely be given plenty of opportunities for violent runs in between the tackles.
All in all, expect to see a dip in Lynch’s production from last season. Richard, Martin, Washington, and Warren all have the chance to get significant playing time this season. Lynch is still in condition to be a starter in the NFL, but you can never truly predict the complete decline of a 32 year old running back with 10 seasons under his belt. He’ll still play an important role in the silver and black, but Lynch won’t be the true centerpiece of the group.
Marshawn Lynch 2018 Stats Prediction: 132 carries, 600 yards, 5 TD’s, 10 receptions, 75 yards