Many tried to suggest the opposite but Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has wanted to work with running back Marshawn Lynch from the moment he agreed to take the job.
“Looking at our film and the game that I broadcast on Christmas night, there’s no question he’s still the Beast, that’s hard to bring down,” Gruden said of Lynch in February. “And one of the reasons that I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch, but we’ll see what happens. I’m counting on him being a big part of our football team.”
Then the doubters tried the other angle, saying Lynch wouldn’t come back to play for Gruden.
Soon after, Lisa Olson of The Athletic reported that Lynch was “intrigued” with the idea. Most would continue to doubt the two could coexist with the Raiders. But Gruden did what great coaches do and challenged Lynch to get in great shape so he can be a feature back.
“I said to him, ‘I need Marshawn Lynch,” Gruden told Sports Illustrated in February. ‘I don’t need this part-time Lynch. I need full-time Lynch.’”
Lynch’s response is what any great athlete’s response would be—answer the challenge and get in great shape. His first cousin, Bay Area rapper Mistah F.A.B., appeared Friday on 95.7 The Game and spoke on that as well as how excited he is to play for Gruden.
“He loves Gruden. We talked about that earlier this week. Mistah F.A.B. said of what Lynch thinks of Gruden. He loves Gruden. He loves what Gruden has told him. He told [Marshawn], ‘Man, I want to get you more involved in the offense.’”
”That has [Marshawn] getting into some of the best condition I’ve seen him in in a long time. Mistah F.A.B. said of his conditioning. “He came in, he gave me a hug the other day after shopping. I was like, ‘Damn, cuz. What you on, steroids?’”
So we can see that Gruden and Lynch and will work well together Gruden in 2018. And if you look at the 2017 stats and analytics of Pro Football Focus, you see he still has it. He was the same ol’ Beast Mode, averaging around his career average of 3.1 yards after contact.
In a misfitted zone-blocking scheme, PFF had the offensive line allowing the RB’s only 1.42 yards before contact collectively. And of course, that came down by around .20 as defenses crowded the box more with Lynch in the game, giving him 4.3 yards per carry.
In 2016 with power-blocking, the Raiders O-line allowed 1.9 yards before contact. Tom Cable is the new O-line coach but it still sounds like Gruden is bringing back power-blocking. Cable actually ran a lot of power-blocking plays with Darren McFadden as the Raiders’ head coach and as the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line coach with Lynch asking for them.
So as the O-line goes back to the scheme they fit best, they should perform more like they did in 2016. Therefore, to get a good estimate of Lynch’s yards before contact in 2018, we can take the 1.9 number of 2016 and take away .20 to make it 1.7. Add that to Lynch’s 3.1 yards after contact and we have Lynch averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
From there, give him 280 carries, what today’s feature back gets and what he had with the Seahawks in 2014. And if you include his amount of carries per touchdown over his career, that gives Lynch a big season of 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns. This isn’t to predict his exact numbers for 2018 but it is a good estimate of the neighborhood he should be in in 2018.
Despite what many thought, the connection between Gruden and Lynch is natural. They both love the town (Oakland) and Gruden loves the physical running game Lynch provides. The fact that Gruden wants him in better shape so he can use him more as to be music to Lynch’s ears too. So barring injury, Gruden will get a great season out of of Lynch.