Running back Marshawn Lynch is the unquestioned workhorse of the Oakland Raiders, but teams should not sleep on his backups.
During the offseason, the Oakland Raiders pulled off a transaction that many would deem impossible. After running back Latavius Murray bolted for the Minnesota Vikings, the Raiders were able to bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, signing the local superstar back to a two-year deal. With Beast Mode in place for the 2017 season, this Raiders offense is going to be special, but the running back position goes well beyond just Lynch.
Last season, the Raiders put together the sixth-ranked rushing attack, led by Murray. Murray scored 12 touchdowns for the Silver and Black, rushing for 788 yards on 195 carries. While the touchdown total was nice, the truth is that Murray was not a consistent runner at all, and the team won games despite him on plenty of occasions.
Behind Murray on the depth chart was two rookies, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard. Both players played key roles for the Raiders, putting together solid rookie seasons for the 12-4 Raiders. Not only did they do damage running the ball, they also made some key plays out of the backfield in the passing game, while contributing on special teams as well.
Combined, the two rookies rushed for over 950 yards last season, finding paydirt three times. The most impressive statistic was their yards per carry, as both men posted a number greater than 5.0. That is some serious bang for your buck, and it was a key reason the Raiders quietly put together a solid season running the ball.
Heading into this season, the Raiders have a much more reliable option at running back in Lynch, who will be counted on to be the workhorse. I fully expect him to possibly double the amount of carries that Murray had last season, as he has looked incredible during training camp up to this point. However, Richard and Washington’s role on this offense cannot be overlooked, and you can be sure they will leave their mark on the Raiders season in year two.
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Richard will handle punt returns for the Raiders, with Washington serving as his backup. While newly acquired Cordarrelle Patterson is going to be the main kick returner, you can expect to see Washington in that role as well, as he should spell both Patterson and Richard in the return game.
Both Richard and Washington have similar running styles, which is a nice change of pace from the Beast Mode style of running Raiders fans will see out of Lynch this season. Derek Carr is very comfortable running the offense with Richard and Washington behind him, and they should be able make plays in the run game, and through the air.
While Lynch is coming out of retirement, he is 31 years old. So getting him some rest throughout the season is going to be key for a Raiders team that could challenge for supremacy in the AFC in 2017.
Last season, you never knew what you were going to get out of Murray, who was arguably the most frustrating player on the Raiders roster. With Lynch, you know you are going to get at least 20 carries per game, and all indications are that he is getting through the line with quickness this Summer. He most definitely has tread left on the tires, and with two 23-year old speedster behind him on the depth chart, the Raiders may finish 2017 in the top-5 in rushing.
Depth is so key in the NFL, and for the Raiders, they have plenty of it at the running back position. Carr took a major step towards being an elite quarterback in 2016, and with an even better running back behind him, who knows where the ceiling is this season? One thing is for sure, when he runs play-action to Lynch, the defense is going to come up, and guys like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and Patterson are going to have their fair share of big plays.