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What Marshawn Lynch has done on the field for Raiders makes him a keeper for 2018

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With what Marshawn Lynch has done on the field this season, he should be brought back this season but his antics may prevent that from happening.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There was so much hype surrounding running back Marshawn Lynch coming back to his hometown of Oakland to play for the Raiders this year. But as usual in such a situation, the production wasn’t even close to matching the hype this year. So many around Raider Nation blame Lynch for not being as big a factor as the team needed him to be.

Lynch is now 31 and most RB’s burn out at 30 so a lot of the media blames his age. Then there are those who blame the rust from his year away from football, believing he could be better next year. But the truth of the matter is Lynch wasn’t rusty and isn’t washed up — he just wasn’t being used right or enough.

His 790 yards and seven touchdowns rushing right now don’t exactly scream, “Beast Mode is back!” But the way he’s doing it tells you he’s the same guy he’s always been. Lynch is consistently in the top five in the NFL in elusive rating and yards after contact.

And according to Pro Football Focus, he’s there again with a 63.6 elusive rating and 3.31 yards per carry after contact this year. Of the 16 NFL RBs with at least 150 attempts averaging 4.0-or-more yards per carry this season, Lynch is one of two that have 70 percent or more of his yards after contact.

It was the scheme switch from power-blocking to zone-blocking that stopped the running game. The Raiders have the biggest offensive line in football, made for power-blocking. Zone-blocking is made for smaller, more athletic lineman so the O-line isn’t doing what they do best and it has shown over the season with the returning starters.

Center Rodney Hudson had a PFF run-blocking grade of 87.4 in 2016 and he’s at 75.2 now. Guard Kelechi Osemele finished at 85.8 in 2016 and is at 73.1 now. Fellow OG Gabe Jackson was most affected at 78.0 in 2016 and 48 now. And left tackle Donald Penn was least affected with a 88.7 in 2016 and a 83.3 now.

As a team the Raiders pulled an OG on 106 run plays last season and averaged 4.05 yards per carry doing so. This season, they’re averaging 5.00 yards per carry on such plays but they’ve only done it on just 59 run plays. The Raiders didn't even run a power or counter until Week 5 this season.

For those who think offensive coordinator Todd Downing installed zone blocking to fit Lynch think again. All Lynch needs is a hole and he used to beg for power blocking with the Seattle Seahawks. If you look at his “Beast Quake” runs, a lot of them were powers.

Those who think 2016 RB Latavius Murray is missed this year, think again. Murray has eight more carries than Lynch this season and 59 fewer yards. Murray’s average is 3.7 yards per compared to 4.2 for Lynch while 67.58 percent of his yards come after contact compared to 70.89 percent for Lynch.

Lynch also has more forced missed tackles (32) than Murray (23). His PFF elusive rating of 63.6 has him at No. 3 in the NFL while Murray’s 34.8 rating has him tied for No. 35. So let that put an end to all that “We miss Murray” stuff.

Lynch is clearly still in Beast Mode with his forced missed tackles and yards after contact. If he had the 1.78 yards per carry before contact last year’s Raiders running backs had, he would be averaging 5.1 yards per carry and would need only 42 yards to reach 1,000 in the season finale. So he’s definitely worth bringing back for 2018 on the field.

If there was anything that could potentially keep the Raiders from bringing him back for $6 million it would be his antics. Having kneeled for the National Anthem his whole career is one thing, but incidents like getting ejected and suspended for protecting Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters after he hit quarterback Derek Carr could be a big deal.