Marshawn Lynch to the Oakland Raiders was the move heard around the NFL world this offseason. And last Friday, there was more noise as the financial details about Lynch’s contract emerged on ESPN. Their report said that Lynch had a chance to make an extra $7.5 million on his 2-year deal.
That would take the total contract value from $9 million to $16.5 million. Winning AP NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP are hard incentives for Lynch or anyone to make. But the bulk of Lynch’s incentives are based on rushing for over 1,000 yards with 12 TDs and the Raiders making the playoffs.
Those are the incentives that he is most focused on and should be able to make. There are many that question Lynch’s ability to get after a year off, his injury and the crowded backfield. But Lynch should make the bulk of incentives and lift the Raiders to another level in the process.
Still Got it
In 2015, his last year, Lynch didn’t have the best statistical year, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. Many attribute that to Lynch slowing down, not the horrible Seattle Seahawks offensive line. Teammate Thomas Rawls averaged 5.6 yards per carry behind the same line to make it look that way.
But all Rawls did that year was have four big games while playing against bad run defenses. His biggest was 200-yard game against the San Francisco 49ers and their No. 29-ranked run defense. Lynch had the least amount of yards before contact of any running back in the NFL at 1.1 yards per carry.
But nagging abdominal muscle and all, he still had the highest elusive rating in the NFL in 2015. That was the second year in a row he had the highest such rating to show he didn’t lose anything. And Rawls came back down to Earth with that offensive line, averaging 3.2 yards per carry in 2016.
At that point, with Lynch out of the picture, observers suddenly put the blame the offensive line. Now, it’s easy to see from a tweet from head coach Jack Del Rio that Lynch still has his burst and moves. Yes, that is the same ole Beast Mode, one of the most elusive running backs in the NFL.
Great Offensive Line
Lynch is now in a great situation with the offensive line the offensive line the Raiders have. According to Pro Football Focus, the Raiders, not the Dallas Cowboys, have the best run-blocking offensive line. Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard flourished behind it in 2016.
But the three running backs didn’t do much on their own, combining for just 14 broken tackles on 156 carries. According to Pro Football Focus, that is one of the lower rates in the NFL. Washington and Richard are scat-backs so you can’t expect much from them but Murray should be better.
In 2016, Murray averaged four yards per carry behind the best offensive line and had 12 TDs. But Murray is only good against bad run defenses because he rarely makes guys miss or breaks tackles. Murray has been consistently around the bottom of the league in yards after contact over his career.
Meanwhile, Lynch has the most broken tackles since 2013 according to Pro Football Focus, despite not playing in 2016. His total is 245 compared to just 76 for Murray as Lynch has broken more than that in one season. So it is clear that Lynch would do well as he has never had an offensive line that good before.
Lynch Will Carry the Ball
The Raiders were a finesse team on offense while head coach Jack Del Rio likes to have a physicality. The Raiders have already built the biggest, most physical offensive line in the NFL. So to match, Del Rio and his Raiders need a physical running game that you can’t stop when you know it’s coming.
Carr and his weapons are good for going out and getting the lead or coming from behind. But you want to avoid shootouts if you can because you just don’t know how those will end up for you. The Raiders have improved their defense in the draft but still need to close games by running the ball.
Neither Murray, Washington or Richard could be depended on to run the clock out last year. That’s why the Raiders were still throwing against the Indianapolis Colts late in game to get Carr injured. So this year, Lynch will get his carries in such situations in order to put the game away easier.
A physical, tackle-breaking running back like Lynch can impose the his will on defenses. That’s more of Del Rio’s style of play anyway and Lynch’s physical runs will inspire the defense. Carr will no longer have to throw to get a first downs late in games, exposing him to possible injuries.
Not Playing in 2016 Helped
Even though it’s mainly due to injury, players miss seasons all the time so rust won’t be a problem. Neither will his conditioning as Lynch kept himself in shape throughout the whole year he was out. As a matter of fact, Lynch taking a year off in 2016 was more of a benefit to him than anything.
More players in the NFL should take a year off to get their respective bodies right after an injury. Coming back without fully getting your body back together is the main reason players decline. Players start out with a certain amount of speed, power and agility then improve them with their skills as they go.
As long as they remain healthy, they remain stars but at some point, the injury factor creeps in. Players are no longer able to improve over the offseason because they’re fighting to get back to normal. Then as injuries pile up, players start to spend more time rehabbing and less time improving or maintaining their skill-set.
Players only have from December or January to the end of July to get back in peak conditioning. So injuries and rehabs can ultimately lead to the players coming back at a lower level each year. So Lynch not playing in 2016 allowed him to rehab his injury and work out to regain all of his physical ability.
What 2017 Season Should Look Like
The year off has Lynch coming back to play for his home team physically and mentally recharged. The 31-year-old ran into the building to sign his contract and has been a bundle of joy ever since. And even though the Raiders are limiting his offseason reps, they are impressed with his conditioning.
He was the hardest running back to tackle in 2015 despite the fact that the abdominal injury. So I expect him to have the same 2.8 yards per carry after contact, he has averaged over his career. Then put his vision together with the Raiders No. 1 run-blocking offensive line to get him two ypc before contact.
That’s 4.8 yards per carry that he’ll have over 260 carries to get him 1,248 yards and 15 TDs. Carr is back with his weapons on offense while the Raiders defense has improved this offseason. So barring the unforeseen, the Raiders will go back to the playoffs after the 2017 season.
And the year of rest should give Lynch a second good year, allowing him to make his main incentives. It will be hard to win MVP and-or Super Bowl MVP so I will not count that for him. So if you take out that $1.75 million, Lynch will end up with $5.75 million, the bulk of his incentive-laden deal.
That’s $14.75 million over two years, suitable for a beast!
Just win, baby!