January 17, 2016. The last time Marshawn Lynch played an NFL game that meant something was a playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Lynch ran the ball just six times in the Seahawks loss. It was a return to the field after an injury plagued season kept Lynch sidelined for all but seven games in the 2015 regular season.
Then Lynch retired. He took 2016 off. And the Raiders are hoping to the reap the benefits from Lynch’s break from football.
“I believe in the freshness piece,” Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “I certainly believe in that. I don’t know if I’d say better off with a year off, but you certainly should be well rested and fresh. He’s shown that in practice, so I look forward to seeing what it looks like in games.”
Lynch did play in some preseason games, but his time on the field was as brief as his retirement. He played just 16 snaps in the preseason, carrying the ball four times. His preseason play was just a chance for Raider fans to cheer him.
So it still remains to be seen if Lynch will come back from retirement as a rested star, or as a rusty back.
His quarterback thinks Lynch is going to benefit from not getting beaten up like most NFL running backs.
“I think anybody with a year off from football would bode well," Derek Carr said. “It’s hard on your body, especially the way that he plays, and he plays running back. We talk about it all the time – I think running back, physically, is one of the most demanding positions in all of sports; the pounding it takes, the speed you have to run with, the knowledge you have to have, your job and assignments. I think a year off did him well, to be honest. He seems fresh, energized. He’s really excited, I can tell you. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs now, and he’s already almost going full speed, so it’ll be fun to see him turn it on.”
When Lynch turns it on, his level of production could be a game changer for the Raiders. Lynch had four straight seasons in Seattle with over 1,200 yards rushing and at least 10 touchdowns. He was a star in the Seattle backfield. He could not be tackled.
Marshawn Lynch has 5,645 career rushing yards...AFTER contact. Has broken 602 tackles in his career. #BeastMode
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 9, 2016
“It’s a huge part of his game. It’s the yards after contact,” Downing said. “As coaches, those are the bonus yards for you. You can scheme or you can teach or technique up to a certain point and then there comes a time where the runner has got to make you right or get you that extra little bit, and that’s what Marshawn does.”
He could lead to the Raiders offense being even more explosive in 2017. As Derek Carr enjoyed his most successful season in the NFL last year, the Raiders ranked among the league’s rushing leaders. With a 4.4 yards per carry the Raiders tied for 10th in the NFL, plus added the sixth most rushing touchdowns in the league.
If the 31-year-old Lynch plays like the 28-year-old Lynch, Oakland could have the best rushing attack in the NFL.
Tyler Bischoff hosts Coaches Corner on AM 720 KDWN Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.