Some experts don’t believe the hype about Marshawn Lynch, counting his bad 2015, age, (31) injury and year off against him. Some don’t expect him to get enough carries to even rush for over 1,000 yards this year.
Recently former NFL wideout Reggie Wayne said he’d be surprised if Lynch didn’t rush for 1,200 yards if not lead the NFL in rushing. That was a bold prediction, but if you look closely at everything, the hype about Lynch playing in Oakland is justified.
Didn’t slow down in 2015
Don’t believe Lynch slowed down In 2015 because of his 3.8-yard-per-carry-average. That was the Seattle Seahawks’ O-line allowing Lynch an NFL-low 1.1 yards per carry before contact.
According to Pro Football Focus, Lynch had the highest elusive rating in the NFL in 2015. He still leads the NFL in broken tackles since 2013 while missing nine games in 2015 and all of 2016.
He broke 40 tackles in only seven games with six starts in his last year. That’s more than Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (36) when leading the NFL in rushing in 2016. Breaking more tackles in seven games than Elliott in 16 games isn’t slowing down.
Elliott is the 2016 NFL rushing champion with 1,631 yards mainly because of his O-line. He averaged 2.9 yards after contact but Pro Football Focus gave him a below average elusive rating. Elliott only broke 36 tackles on the year to show the help he has.
Pro Football Focus also has Elliott’s O-line giving him 2.16 yards per carry before contact. The Raiders O-line was even better last year, grinding out 2.55 yards before contact. Lynch will have a better O-line with more tackle breaking ability.
It also helps that he has elite QB-and-WR combo Derek Carr and WR Amari Cooper. Free agent acquisitions Jared Cook (TE) and Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) are also there now. That will make it even less likely that opposing defenses load the box too often.
Lynch taking a year off in 2016 restored his body all the way body to full strength. That extra time in the weight room allowed him re-strengthen those muscles and joints. More NFL players should take a year off to completely heal.
Starting a season before fully recovering from injury is what starts the player’s decline. First, they stop improving because they’re busy rehabbing themselves back to full strength. Then they get to the point where they rehab just enough to play again.
They only have from December or January to do all they’re going to do. Next thing you know, the players come back worse each year until their skills and talents have completely eroded. But Lynch’s time off allowed him to regain all of his strength.
Some are questioning what Lynch can do this year because he may be rusty. But Lynch has played nine years in the NFL so he didn’t forget how to play with one year off. The majority of what people call rust is the lack of conditioning anyway.
Lynch was thinking of coming back since last last year so he definitely kept in shape. He even went back to Cal and took some reps as a scout team RB to stay sharp. Plus there’s a precedence for NFL RBs coming back and playing well.
Ricky Williams was an effective RB after retiring and being suspended a full season. Over his first five uninterrupted seasons, he averaged 3.99 yards per carry. After his comeback that had another year off, he averaged 4.34 yards per carry.
Some are counting Lynch out these days because he’s over 30 — the age when RB’s start to decline. But RB’s on Lynch’s level have done some special things at that age. Back in 2004, Curtis Martin rushed for 1,697 yards to lead the league at 31.
At 30, Tiki Barber was the runner-up to Shaun Alexander by 20 yards with 1,860 yards. Then the next year, at 31, Barber finished No. 4 in the NFL with 1,662 yards rushing. The magic didn’t stop for Walter Payton back in the ‘80s either.
At 30, Payton finished second to Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards with 1,684 in 1984. Then at 31, he finished third to Marcus Allen’s 1,759 yards and Gerald Riggs 1,719 yards with 1,551 yards. And Payton is the guy Lynch most runs like.
Will get his carries
As good as the Raiders were last year, they were a bit too much of a finesse team. That’s not the personality of head coach Jack Del Rio, who likes to have physicality. He’s a defensive guy that likes a physical running game to go with a solid defense.
Of course, he’s going to let Carr and his weapons go out and do what they do. But he’s going to want to run the clock out once the Raiders get the lead. Carr got injured throwing late in a game with the lead last year because Raiders didn’t have a closer.
The Raiders signed Lynch to be that physical RB you can’t stop when you know he’s coming. That’s how you put games away when you have a late lead. So Lynch will get enough carries in that role to have a big season in 2017.
Lynch has a career average of 2.8 yards per carry after contact. And the Raiders have the same O-line that allowed 2.55 yards before contact in 2016 coming back. That combination would put Lynch at 5.35 yards per carry in 2017.
His career-high in carries is 315 and that would get him 1,685 yards and a possible rushing title. Most the experts guess he’ll be at around 285 carries, putting him at 1,525 yards, still in contention. Giving him 260 carries would put him at 1,391 yards.
Barring injury, there’s reason to beleive he’ll rush for over 1,200 yards and in contention for the rushing title. Now, you can see Wayne’s prediction of 1,200 to leading the league is possible and doesn’t look so bold. So Raiders fans are most excited about Lynch for good reason.