With the Oakland Raiders and Marshawn Lynch reportedly sharing a mutual interest, the veteran running back would be the missing piece.
The Oakland Raiders lost Latavius Murray in 2017 NFL free agency as the 27-year-old signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Though Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have promise as the potential replacements at running back for the Raiders, it’s hard to say they fully inspire a great deal of confidence. However, one player who would inspire such confidence would be Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement.
If you hadn’t been keeping up with the latest news and rumblings, that notion might seem a bit absurd. However, the Raiders have met with Lynch recently and numerous reports have indicated that there is mutual interest between the two parties. What’s more, there are also reports that a deal could be a Jack Del Rio sign-off away from essentially getting done.
Having not played for a full season, there might be some concern about rust when it comes to Lynch returning. All reports seem to point to that not being an issue, though. Even if he’s not a superstar anymore, a slightly lesser version of Lynch is still a plus player. In fact, he’s a better option than the likes of Adrian Peterson, another potential replacement for Murray that’s been floated.
Marshawn Lynch being a better player than Peterson right now is at least somewhat subjective. Objectively, though, Lynch is substantially better of a fit for the Raiders in their current situation. In fact, Beast Mode truly looks to be the missing piece that the Raiders need to take another leap forward and become contenders. Here are five reasons why he’s the missing piece.
Nov 9, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) rushes against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
5. Mentality and Confidence
Yes, I know that it sounds strange referring to Marshawn Lynch’s mentality as a positive factor. After all, we’re talking about a man and player who’s famous for his “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” Super Bowl press conferences and his love for Skittles. However, those are just the fun narratives to run with. When you push away all of the fluff, what you have is one of the most confident players in NFL history that has a Super Bowl pedigree.
For a young team like the Oakland Raiders, both of those traits are invaluable. This team has viable Super Bowl aspirations for the 2017 season and the foreseeable future. Reggie McKenzie and the rest of the front office have constructed a potential juggernaut that is still on the rise as a young core continues to improve. However, what they don’t have is ton of experience in terms of guys that have been to the mountaintop and know what it takes to both get there and succeed once there. Lynch could provide that.
In terms of confidence, that factors in similarly. It feels pretty safe to say when watching Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and the rest of this Raiders team that they are confident in their abilities. However, there’s a difference in self-confidence the type of confidence it takes to get over the hump and become a bonafide contender. Lynch has that in bunches and can help guid the young Raiders on their way to that mindset as well.
Jun 19, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch sits on stage during the Golden State Warriors 2015 championship celebration in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
4. Helping To Win Back Fans
With the announcement that the Oakland Raiders have a shelf-life before the team relocates to Las Vegas, many fans have become disenfranchised or downright bitter. The term Raider Nation has long been applicable, but now the nation no longer includes many of the long-time faithful in the Bay Area.
Considering they’re still playing there for at least one (likely two) more year, that’s not a good thing for this team. The Black Hole and the environment created by their fans at home is one of their advantages in the tough AFC West, and against the rest of the league as well. Thus, there has to be a concerted effort by the front office to ensure that they win back at least some of the fans.
Winning would obviously be a big help in that regard, as will time as the shock of the relocation wears off a bit. However, Lynch becoming a member of the Raiders while they’re still in Oakland may be a more pivotal factor in winning back the fans than anything else. He’s a hometown hero entrenched in the city’s sports culture. His arrival would be a holiday for some in Oakland, especially with him helping the team realize Super Bowl aspirations.
It might not be a cure-all for the resentment that some fans feel regarding the move to Vegas. But Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement to play for his hometown team is the stuff of legends. He would at least somewhat aid in helping to fill out the stadium and have the fans continuing to be raucous and providing a true home-field advantage.
Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) congratulate each other after they scored a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
3. Life Becomes Easier for Derek Carr, Receivers
How many times have you heard a commentator mention something to the effect of “running to set up the pass.” It’s as cliched of a phrase as you’ll hear in the NFL. But the thing about cliches in sports is that they normally earn that label because of the truth within them. This is one of those cases. Being able to run the ball effectively changes the way defenses must play, thus opening up things for the passing game on play-action and even not.
Marshawn Lynch would whole-heartedly provide that for the Raiders. Despite the fact that he’s been out of the league, all signs around his return point to him being in great shape and unconcerned about his ability to be an NFL running back. If that’s so and he’s even 85 percent of what he was with the Seahawks the last time we saw him, he’s going to be able to run effectively behind Oakland’s offensive line.
Subsequently, Derek Carr and the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are going to greatly benefit. Because of his combination of power and burst, Lynch being on the field is going to force defenses to either pinch more often or assign coverage to the running back. That means one less man or less focus being put on the talented pair of outside receivers. With Carr back healthy and likely progressing further after another year of experience, that makes the offense even more dangerous than just having an upgrade at running back.
Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (51) react during the second half of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders won 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
2. The Defense Is Aided As Well
Despite having a Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack and plenty of other talented pieces, the Oakland Raiders defense struggled a year ago. Much of that can certainly be blamed on poor secondary play and even worse play at linebacker. That’s something that the team must and should address throughout the offseason. However, they also weren’t helped by the offense at times.
As the Atlanta Falcons can attest to after their Super Bowl collapse with an absolute exhausted defense, there’s an art to controlling a game with your offense. Yes, putting points on the board is great. But if you possess a hot-and-cold offense that doesn’t always sustain drives and that has quick-strike tendencies, that works to the detriment of the defense. Come the fourth quarter, that unit is gassed from being on the field and not being able to recover fully when the offense is on the field.
Lynch would help to make that less of an issue for the Raiders. While Carr and the talented receiving corps are there to make big plays, Beast Mode would offer the offense the ability to sustain drives and control the clock. That not only allows them to be in more control of the game with the ball in their hands, but also allows their defense to be more effective when on the field. That’s a pivotal component of Oakland taking the next step.
Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is tackled Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry (53) during the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
1. Beast Mode Fits The Offense Perfectly
Above all else, this is why Marshawn Lynch going to the Oakland Raiders makes so much sense. Lynch didn’t earn the Beast Mode moniker by being a scat back that relies on quickness and agility on the edge to make plays. Sure, he has the quickness to make defenders miss still. However, he’s a tried and true power back that embraces and belittles contact, fighting through it for extra yards and even breaking open plays.
Granted, most teams would love to have that type of ball-carrier in the backfield, but that style of running fits Oakland’s power scheme perfectly. Through free agency and the draft, the Raiders have constructed one of the better offensive lines in the league. It’s not complete, mind you, but they showed last year just how effective they can be and how much that greatly helps the offense. They’re also a line that is geared towards power backs and running up through the trenches, anchored by Kelechi Osemele at guard.
While Latavius Murray had his moments as that type of power back, he’s nowhere near the elite player in that regard that Lynch has proven to be. Even if he’s lost a step from his prime, Lynch is still notably more effective in that role than Murray would’ve ever been. What had been second-and-6 or 7 in previous years will more commonly be second-and-4 or 5. That opens up the playbook and thus the offense further. When you can add that type of improvement to the offense with a perfect fit in addition to all the other added benefits, it’s hard not to think that he’s not the missing link to put this team over the top.