After an explosive year in 2016, the Oakland Raiders offense slowed down darn near to a halt in 2017. The team still had one of the best offensive lines in football but many of the skill-position players had bad years. Quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Amari Cooper are among those with bad years on that offense. They struggled with injuries this year but the biggest problem was first-time offensive coordinator Todd Downing.
His ineptitude is well documented leading to WR Michael Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch as perceived cut targets. Statistical production vs salary tends to do that in today’s NFL. However, it seems like head coach Jon Gruden believes he can do something with the Raiders’ offensive personnel as is.
Gruden is reportedly sticking with Crabtree across from Cooper. And Gruden, who has had a chance to evaluate the Raiders on tape since being hired, very much wants Lynch to be a part of the Raiders in 2018, saying Wednesday that the 31-year-old back is “still a beast” and he is “counting on him being a big part of our football team.”
Another underutilized player on the team is fullback Jamize Olawale. Gruden would like to get him going as well.
“I like Jamize. He didn’t play much last year,” Gruden said. “He had some injuries. I think that hurt the offense, as well. He gives the offense some deception because he can run. I mean, he’s a fullback with speed, but he was injured, it impacted us on special teams and it certainly impacted the offense. But I would like to have a fullback. They’re a dying breed in football, but I think it does give your running game a lot of deception. And if Marshawn Lynch is the featured back, I think it would be nice if we serviced him with a fullback.”
Cooper and Crabtree worked very well in tandem for the Raiders in 2016 in an average offensive system. And Lynch was one of the best running backs in the entire NFL over the second half of the 2017 season. Tight end Jared Cook, who hasn’t been in headlines much this offseason, flashed as the Raiders leading receiver in 2017. So you can see why Gruden would be interested in finding out what he can do with the offensive personnel as is.
Editor’s note: Levi Damien contributed to this article.