The Oakland Raiders will be without the services of lead back, Marshawn Lynch this week in Buffalo. The Raiders lead back, having been suspended by the NFL for contact with an official in week seven, will watch as his two understudies carry the load for the Raiders. If Lynch’s two back-ups perform well against a stout Bills defense, could there be a changing of the guard in the Oakland backfield?
Is It Time For Marshawn Lynch To Step Aside In Oakland?
A Failed Experiment
Lynch has been a shadow of his former self this season. Coming out of retirement to play for his hometown team was the feel-good story of the off-season; the prospect of having Beast Mode tote the rock for the Silver and Black had fans and analysts drooling about what was in store.
After seven weeks, however, it is clear that Lynch is not the Beast-mode of legend anymore, and his presence in the line-up may be doing more harm than good.
His absence this week will give the Raiders coaching staff an opportunity to take a long look at back-ups, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, and may force a change to the way carries are split up going forward.
Recreating a Beast
There is no argument that the skill set Lynch provides is unique, even if it has fallen off substantially over the last few years.
His elusiveness and power were once unmatched in the league, but those days are gone. The era of the lead-back is all but over and the emergence of the now popular “Running back-by-committee” seems to be the league norm.
Oakland is lucky enough to have two talented backs whose skill sets when combined, can duplicate the 2017 production of Lynch.
Richard and Washington provide offensive coordinator Todd Downing with a true one-two punch that when used correctly, could be one of the most effective in the league.
Replacing a Legend
Through seven games, Lynch has carried the ball 72 times for 266 yards and two touchdowns. The combination of Richard and Washington has produced 58 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns, a mere 55 yards shy of tying Lynch on 14 fewer carries.
While these figures seem to be pretty equal, it’s important to remember that Richard and Washington have been used primarily in relief roles. They have yet to play with a game script tailored to their strengths.
The combination of Washington’s skill between the tackles and Richard’s ability in the passing game creates a two-headed monster that Lynch, by himself, can’t provide. And while this week’s matchup isn’t ideal, the second year backs may prove to be everything the Raiders need moving forward.
What Happens Next
Lynch and the Raiders now find themselves in a peculiar situation. If Richard and Washington are productive this Sunday in Buffalo, what do the Raiders do? Does Lynch resume his position at the top of the depth chart upon his return? Does he continue to get a pass for his poor play because he’s a fan favorite?
With the Raiders season still riding on the brink of “salvageable”, Oakland needs to play the hot hand at running back. Even if that means Lynch continues to sit and watch while Richard and Washington shoulder the load.