How to use Marshawn Lynch efficiently in the ground game

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17: Marshawn Lynch
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17: Marshawn Lynch /

Running back Marshawn Lynch should be well-rested after one year out of football. How does Todd Downing use Beast Mode effectively as a runner in 2017?

After a year out of football doing crazy, awesome stuff like ghost-riding camels, popping wheelies in Scotland and tackling teenagers at football camp, five-time Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders.

Not only is Lynch about that action, boss and delicious Skittles, he is about Oakland. The former standout in the Pac-10 with the California Golden Bears will want to give it his all for the Silver and Black this year. However, he is 31 years old and doesn’t have a ton of tread left on the tires. How can new offensive coordinator Todd Downing get the most out of Lynch when it counts this season?

Lynch runs with a punishing style and that’s awesome. He could theoretically eclipse 10,000 rushing yards this season and will totally surpass 75 career rushing touchdowns. Could that be enough to make him Canton bound? We’ll see. That being said, it makes no sense for Downing to make Lynch his bell-cow back before the weather changes. There are three reasons for this.

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  1. Oakland’s schedule is navigable in the first half, but increasingly more difficult in the second half. The Raiders have to play all three division opponents, the New England Patriots, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys November on.
  2. Lynch has 2,144 career carries in nine NFL seasons split between the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks. He may have had a year off, but he’s not a brand new car for Downing to drive into the ground.
  3. The Raiders have two more than capable running backs to split carries with Lynch in September and October. Jalen Richard‘s emergence last fall allowed Oakland to feel comfortable about letting former Pro Bowl running back Latavius Murray skip town in free agency to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. DeAndre Washington is going to be a factor in year two. Let’s not forget about the seventh-round pick in rookie Elijah Hood out of North Carolina. Hood might have been the best value pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by general manager Reggie McKenzie.

So what can Raider Nation expect out of Lynch in 2017? Don’t think he’ll be averaging more than 10 carries a game in September or October. Look for Downing to use Lynch more in the red zone because Beast Mode will find a way to pay dirt from 20 yards out.

Downing could occasionally lean on Lynch to open a series with a punishing first-down run to set the tone for the rest of the Raiders attack. However, it would be in Oakland’s best interest to use its elite road-grading offensive line to rack up yards for Richard, Washington and the rookie Hood. Maybe one of them rushes for 1,000 yards this year? It’s just not going to be Lynch and that’s okay.

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Once the Raiders play their ninth game of the year against the Miami Dolphins on November 5, look for Downing to call Lynch’s number more often. As attrition undermines the opposition’s front-seven, that’s when it’s time for full-blown Beast Mode, running on all the colors of the magical Skittles rainbow.

If Downing feels the need to lean on Lynch as a bell-cow November on, he can do that with more confidence. It will help the Raiders’ passing game out tremendously, as starting quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t yet figured out how to star in the cold. Hopefully year four is when that happens for Carr.

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Who knows how long Lynch will want to play football? He may just do everything in his power to play out the rest of the Raiders’ tenure in Oakland before riding off into the sunset on a camel eating a pack of delicious Skittles. The best way for Oakland to win when it counts is to manage Lynch’s snap from the jump. Beast Mode is best served chilled.