After a year away from the NFL, Marshawn Lynch returned to the field for regular season action on Sunday, making his debut for the Oakland Raiders against the Tennessee Titans.
Lynch’s playing ability was something of a question mark for the Raiders coming into the season — after a year off and now with a new group of teammates, would he still be capable of the Earth-shaking runs that made him a household name in Seattle?
With the Raiders poised to potentially compete for the Super Bowl, and Latavius Murray leaving Oakland to join the Vikings, Lynch’s play had been made even more of a focal point for Raider fans going into the season.
On Sunday, Lynch’s performance against the Titans gave the black-and-silver faithful reason to believe, with Lynch showing flashes of his old “Beast Mode” self and trucking through the first and second levels of the Tennessee defence.
Lynch ended the game with 18 carries for 76 yards as well as a 16-yard reception — not bad for a guy that hadn’t seen NFL action for a year. But what should give Raiders fans even more calm is the way the team used Lynch as an anchor to their power running game.
Between Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree, the Raiders have turned into one of the most electrifying offenses in the NFL. While they always have a plan for first down, in third-and-short or goal-to-go situations Lynch gives the Raiders a powerful, go-to option to pick up the first down and keep the clock running, or get across the line against a goal line set.
“He’s running through people, and he’s going to make it a pain on them to tackle him,” Carr said of his new running back. “You’ve got to earn it if you’re going to tackle him.”
Lynch took well to the role, and came up big on a few plays down the stretch as the Raiders were protecting a lead on the road and looking to drain the clock. The Raiders offence will still be a pass-happy affair, but with Beast Mode in the backfield, they have a reliable wrecking ball that can pick them up at least three yards on any given play, and break a few big plays when he gets the chance.
The Raiders host the Jets in their home opener in Week 2, so chances are Lynch will get a few more opportunities to run over defenders.
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