Expectations for Marshawn Lynch for the 2017 season

Nov 15, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is defended by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) is defended by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Reasonable expectations for Marshawn Lynch, as he comes out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders for the upcoming 2017 season.

Fans of Raider Nation are undoubtedly excited about the addition of Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. Let’s take a realistic look at what the Oakland Raiders plan for Beast Mode is, and what the proper expectations should be for his individual performance.

When Jack Del Rio was hired to be the Raiders head coach, he was not shy in expressing his desire to build a strong, physical team that was a bully in the trenches. Despite having a MVP caliber quarterback, Del Rio knows that being able to run the ball more effectively in 2017 will be a key to helping a defense that ranked 26th overall in 2016, as well as take some of the pressure off of Derek Carr.

Welcome, Beast Mode!

As one of the games most feared runners over the past decade, Marshawn Lynch is the perfect back to run behind this mammoth offensive line. Although there are some concerns with the now unretired 31 year old running back, many fans believe Lynch instantly turns the Raiders into the team to beat in the AFC.

When asked about the addition of Lynch, Del Rio had this to say, “Authentic passion is what I see.” Del Rio went on to say “He is a home grown guy. He’s extremely excited about joining this football team, being a part of Raider Nation, and we’re excited to have him.” The man known as “Skittles,” literally looked like a kid in a candy store as he ran into Raiders offices to make his deal official.

Before Raiders fans anoint Lynch the 2017 NFL rushing champ, it would be wise to take a closer look at what to expect from a 31 year old running back coming out of retirement. I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade, but rather, would just like to keep things in perspective.

Yes, the Raiders have arguably the NFL’s best offensive line, which will provide Lynch with big, clean holes to run through. But if first year offensive coordinator Todd Downing wants Lynch to remain fresh down the stretch for a potential playoff run, he would be wise to continue to utilize a running back by committee approach with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

In 2015, his last season with Seattle, Lynch struggled with injuries and finished the year playing in only seven games, totaling 417 yards on 111 carries for a 3.8 yards per carry average. It is my belief that in addition to injuries, lack of motivation played a huge role in the outcome of Lynch’s disappointing 2015.

Is it possible to suggest that Darrell Bevell’s decision not to give Marshawn Lynch the ball on 2nd & Goal from the one in the final moments of Super Bowl 49 had any effect on Lynch’s relationship with the organization? Whether it was a shot to his ego, or he felt disrespected, we may never know.

The 2017 Raiders must learn to win games in a non-shootout fashion. Even though as a fan, those games are fun (and stressful) to watch, it is not a long-term recipe to winning a Super Bowl. With a more effective run game, the Raiders can play with leads by nursing the clock, keeping the sticks moving, and wearing down opposing defenses. By doing so, the Raiders will limit the playing time of the defense, keeping them fresh and in theory, performing better.

Last season, the running back by committee breakdown looked like this: Latavius Murray had 195 carries, Jalen Richard had 83 carries and DeAndre Washington had 87 carries — a total of 365 attempts between the three. The total number of attempts should increase in 2017, and likely be closer to 400+ based on trends from the past two seasons.

Lynch should receive the bulk of the share, and if healthy, 200 to 215 carries is a reasonable amount to expect. His career 4.3 yards per carry average should easily be attainable behind this offensive line. If Lynch can stay healthy and play in 14 to 16 games, Raiders fans can expect anywhere from 850 to 950 yards rushing. Where he’ll likely make his biggest impact is around the goal line, and it’s certainly possible he reached the double digit mark in touchdowns.

Now, some of you may be saying “only 800 yards,” but keep in mind that according to Pro Football Reference “from 2010-2016, only four backs in their 30’s hit the 1,000-yard mark at least once, and there were only six 1,000-yard seasons among them.”

The days of 300 attempts and 1,400 yards are long gone for Beast mode, and the truth is that Marshawn was brought in to bring an attitude of toughness and violent play to the running backs room, which Del Rio and McKenzie covet.

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Lynch will be the thunder to Richard and Washington’s lightning. Raiders fans, this is a match made in heaven, so sit back and enjoy!