Marshawn Lynch is expected to join the AFC West and run wild, but here are five reasons why he won’t be a threat to the Denver Broncos’ defense.
Michael Silver from NFL.com reported that Marshawn Lynch and the Oakland Raiders have agreed to terms and it appears that Lynch is one step closer to being a Raider for the 2017 season. However, the Seattle Seahawks still own the rights to Lynch and both teams will need to finalize a trade before Lynch is officially an Oakland Raider.
This is big news, considering Lynch was one of the most polarizing running backs in the last 10 years, rushing for 9,112 yards and 74 touchdowns during the course of his NFL career. His most notable reign was from 2011 through 2014 as he rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Seattle Seahawks in every single one of those seasons. He made it to the Pro Bowl five times and finished in the top ten in rushing four times in his career.
Oakland is in need of a running back and a superior runner like Lynch could be what it takes to get their offense over the hump. The Raiders are set at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, so spending a premium on a running back sounds like a good choice for their franchise.
Lynch hasn’t taken a snap since 2015 and was retired during the entire 2016 season. There are major question marks whether he is still capable of being an effective runner in the NFL. That’s a long time to be away from the game and the sample size of players coming out of retirement and being successful in the NFL is rather small.
We don’t have all the details of the agreed terms, but this is a good deal for Oakland no matter what, because they get an experience player who could potentially add value to their offensive game plan. The run game was in need of a tuneup and Lynch could be the man to bolster the Raider’s offense.
The Broncos and the Raiders are both in the AFC West, meaning the teams will play each other twice a year, therefore the Broncos will get two chance to figure out how to stop Lynch and the Oakland Raiders. Does the Denver defense have enough gusto to keep him at bay or will Lynch return to his old ways and carve up the defense?
Dec 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) breaks the tackle of New York Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (99) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
5. Possibility That He’s Out Of Shape
Like I previously stated, Lynch has not taken and snap nor has been through a training camp since 2015. The odds of him heading into training camp ready to roll is highly unlikely, given that he has been away from football for almost two full years.
Lynch does not strike me as a guy who was vigorously working out and going to the gym in his free time while he was retired. He might have thought about going to the gym or drove past a gym in the last year. But it would not be all that surprising he did not step foot in a gym during his short retirement.
This is a big deal, because it’s going to increase his chances of suffering an injury in training camp and during the regular season. Even if he works hard in the next few months to get into game shape, he’s still an injury risk due to the long layoff.
Injuries were starting to mount up for Lynch during the tail end of his career with Seattle and returning to football could spark up some of his old preexisting conditions. There’s a very good chance that he may not be on the field when it’s time to play the Broncos. His production and playing time could decrease if he’s playing through injuries, making it easier for Denver’s defense to contain him.
Lynch is a veteran player who might not participate in training camp, and there could be ramifications if he decides to coast though the offseason. This could very well happen since he’s an older player coming out of retirement and may not want to expense the day-to-day grind during training camp. If this happens, his durability for the 2017 season would be questioned.
Dec 21, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) runs 79 yards for a touchdown during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
4. Let’s Face It, Beast Mode Has A Little Gray
Marshawn Lynch turns 31 years old on April 22, which would make him one of the oldest running backs in the league. There are not many running backs in the NFL past the age of 30. Wear and tear slowing chips away at the longevity of running backs and the wheels generally start to fall off around age 28 for running backs.
The last season Lynch played in, which was in 2015, wasn’t very impressive as he only played in seven games while rushing for just 417 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a dismal 3.8 yards per carry. Over a quarter of his production in 2015 came against the San Francisco 49ers when he rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown.
He’s at the age where ligaments and joints start to tighten which increases the odds for injury. Older skilled players usually need extra time in the training room and usually are more likely to get injured due to pounding sustained on their body over the course of their career.
Production also seems to dip for older skilled players, because speed and athleticism tend to decrease with age. He is well past the age threshold, which could be one of the main reasons why his athleticism would start deteriorating and his speed and burst should only get worse going forward.
More than likely, we are not going to see the old Marshawn Lynch from a few years ago and the odds are heavily in favor of him being just a shell of himself. This is great for the Denver defense, because he shouldn’t be much of a threat with the ball in his hands. The Broncos won’t have much to worry about if his skills deteriorate like most 31-year-old running backs.
Nov 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
3. Multiple Running Backs In Oakland’s Offense
Oakland has a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and Lynch might not receive enough workload within the offense to be a major factor. The Raiders finished the regular season ranked 13th in the league in passing and ninth in the league in pass attempts. Although the run game was nonexistent last year, the Raiders have one of the most talented receiving corps in the league with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper as the team’s one-two punch. It’s hard to lean on the run game when you have elite level receivers running routes in the middle of the field.
When it comes to rushing, Oakland finished their regular season ranked 11th in league in rushing attempts. Sounds promising, but the majority of the rushing attempts were split between Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, creating a three headed committee in their backfield. Just because the Raiders sign Lynch doesn’t mean they won’t stray away from utilizing multiple running backs in the run game.
The Broncos won’t have much to worry about if Lynch is held to a limited workload, because he shouldn’t receive enough touches to have an impact, which means the Denver defense can focus their concentration on other areas of Oakland’s offense. You don’t have to worry about stopping him if he’s rarely on the field.
Aug 29, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) runs the ball before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
2. Lead Role Far From Certain
There are a few talented running backs currently on Oakland’s roster and this year’s draft will be bursting from the seams with running back talent, making it a very good possibility that Lynch won’t even be the best running back on the team.
Even if the Raiders land Marshawn Lynch, that doesn’t mean they won’t draft a running back. This year’s draft class is rich in running back talent and they could easily select a talented prospect in the mid to late rounds that could usurp Lynch from the starting running back spot. Not to mention, there are going to be solid undrafted free agent running backs for the Raiders to pickup after the draft.
The Raiders drafted DeAndre Washington in the fifth round of last year’s draft and he was very productive during his rookie season, rushing for 467 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He has enough talent to prevent Lynch from taking over the starting running back role if Lynch’s skill set depreciated during his time away from football.
Jalen Richard is another underrated back in Oakland’s backfield who could take control of the team’s starting running back job if he has a strong camp. He was very impressive last year, rushing for 491 yards and one touchdown while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Don’t be surprised if we see Lynch on the sidelines eating Skittles while another running back is handling the load for the Raiders. Sure he’s Oakland’s brand new toy, but that doesn’t mean the starting gig is automatically going to be his for the taking.
Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos fans hold a defense sign with outside linebacker Von Miller (58) masks (not pictured) in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
1. Denver’s Defense Can Keep Even ‘Beast Mode’ In Check
Denver’s defense finished last season ranked 18th in the league with 4.3 yards per attempt allowed, which is very good since they faced some of the better rushing offenses in the league last year. They are more talented then what the stat sheet displays and could create problems for Oakland’s offensive line when it comes to establishing creases for the running backs to run through.
The Broncos defense has enough talent on the depth chart to be one of the top run defenses in the league. They are also capable of curtailing Marshawn Lynch’s production if given the opportunity. The defense should only get better, because they will draft a few rookies to develop and fill in as quality depth for the team.
Lynch is a few year’s older and could potentially be less athletic compared to years past and even with him playing behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, the Denver Broncos should be able to contain him from breaking out.
The rivalry between the Raiders and the Broncos has been around for decades, and the addition of Lynch should not affect Denver’s gamelan when it comes to stuffing the run. If anything, Lynch could make defending the run a little easier for the Broncos this year.