Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is still the tempo-setter he was when he helped lead the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl win in 2013 with his physical style of running.
Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Lynch ranked No. 5 in forced missed tackles (42) and tied for No. 7 in in yards after contact per attempt (3.1). He also tied for third in average yards after contact by a defender at or behind the line of scrimmage at 1.76 per carry.
The problem was he didn’t get a chance to really produce until late in the season because they didn’t run him much and when they did, it was outside zones. The Raiders’ huge, expensive offensive line isn’t a great fit for outside zones and the Raiders averaged just three yards per carry on them. They averaged five yards per carry when pulling an interior lineman (power scheme).
Zone blocking is why so many are against Tom Cable returning to Oakland to coach the offensive line. They cite the bad offensive line play his last few years in Seattle, which is why he got fired. Not to mention Cable has a strong relationship with Lynch according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur which could signal Gruden plans to bring Lynch back and get him going.
Every NFL team uses at least some zone blocking schemes and some of them are adaptable to bigger O-lineman. Cable can make such adaptations to his scheme, adding power wrinkles to it like he has before.
In the Seahawks’ playoff win over the Detroit Lions last year, he did so much of it, many thought Cable switched to a power scheme for the game altogether. But what he did was use pull-and-pin blocking, which mixes zone and power concepts. In pin-and-pull, the ends push inside while guards pull through the hole outside.
That’s how the Raiders got their backs outside and finished No. 6 in the NFL in rushing in 2016. Cable used it as the head coach of the Raiders in 2010 to help 2008 first-round pick Darren McFadden have his best season. He also used it in Seattle while Marshawn Lynch learned to be more patient with zone blocking. Many of Lynch’s “Beast Quake” came on such plays.
What has happened with the Seahawks’ O-line over the last few years is not entirely Cable’s fault as a coach. He inherited a good O-line with left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger. And he did just fine with them, going to two Super Bowls behind a great running game. But after the Seahawks spent their money to keep the defense together and pay quarterback Russell Wilson, there wasn’t much left over to invest in the offensive line. It was the ones they drafted with Cable heavily involved that didn’t amount to much that ultimately got him fired.
Cable is a solid offensive line coach and has done well with good units. He’s inheriting one of the best in the league this year so he should be able to help Lynch and the Raiders’ running game. His blocking scheme will be similar to what it was in 2016 and what Lynch is most familiar with; using inside zones and pin-and-pull concepts going outside.
Gruden said at his introductory press conference that he plans to “unlock the greatness” in Derek Carr. With this hire, it looks like he plans to unlock Lynch’s greatness too. Look for the Raiders to “pound the rock” in 2018 to help Carr even more.