Marshawn Lynch clearly still has it. He still has great vision, burst, elusiveness and the ability to run over linebackers and defensive lineman. But he really hasn’t had a chance to show it much as he carried the ball just ten times a game over the first half of the season.
He shares carries with 2016 fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington and former undrafted free agent Jalen Richard. Washington and Richard have their respective roles out in space but they are made for spot duty.
Last season with Latavius Murray as the lead back, the Raiders were No. 6 in the NFL in rushing.
The running game figured to get even better with the addition of Lynch but it has fallen to No. 26 in the NFL so far. I guess that’s what happens when you get a star player and don’t use him.
In Week 1, Lynch was able to put the Tennessee Titans away in the end with 18 carries. But since then, the Raiders have abandoned the running game before Lynch can get going. Hence, Lynch is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry on the season so far.
Then Sunday night against the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders stuck with Lynch a little more and it paid off. After his first five carries went for eight yards, Lynch rewarded them with touchdowns from 3 and 22 yards out and finished with 14 carries for 57 yards for an average of 4.1-yard-per-carry. According to Pro Football Focus he averaged 4.3 yards per carry after contact.
In addition, the threat of Lynch opened up the deep ball and play action passing that have been largely missing this year. The result was Carr averaging season-high 10.1 yards per pass attempt Sunday night.
“Obviously that was a big part of it,” Jack Del Rio said after the game, “Having that threat and being able to break one off in that situation, you gain confidence with that. It also allows you to then have some of those play-pass opportunities over the top. That was a really well executed play, where Johnny took off, he can really run, and we had some protection to look down the field and got it down there.”
All that sounds good but the Raiders still need to get Lynch the ball much more. They will be playing better teams than the Dolphins going forward so there are no mistakes allowed for the rest of the season if they are to make the playoffs. One big mistake would be for the Raiders to continue limiting Lynch to 14 carries or less per game.