ALAMEDA, Calif. — Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and staying home to play for the Oakland Raiders means a team on the rise has addressed a huge need at running back.
But there are questions.
After all, Lynch last played in 2015, when he struggled with a hamstring injury and then a sports hernia, which required surgery. He was limited to seven games, in which he averaged 3.8 yards per carry — the second lowest of his career for a single season.
He is not getting any younger, either, as he turned 31 on April 22. But the Raiders are banking on the year off, the change of scenery and the chance to play in Oakland all serving Lynch well after things seemed to sour in Seattle — especially after the Seahawks did not give him the ball from the 1-yard line for a potential winning score in Super Bowl XLIX with less than 30 seconds to play. Instead, Russell Wilson was picked off at the goal line by Malcolm Butler and the New England Patriots escaped.
Indeed, with Beast Mode in the fold, many see the Raiders, who went 12-4 last season and played in the postseason for the first time since 2002, challenging the Patriots for AFC supremacy.
Because if Lynch is close to replicating what he did in his last full NFL season — in 2014, he rushed for 1,306 yards and an NFL-leading 13 touchdowns, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and caught 37 passes for a career-high 367 yards and four TDs — the Raiders will have upgraded their No. 6 rushing attack significantly.
Lynch gives the Raiders, who also signed tight end Jared Cook and receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, a more sure-handed option for quarterback Derek Carr coming out of the backfield.
Besides, the Raiders had only 5-foot-8 mighty mites Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on the roster before Lynch came aboard, and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was sure they could handle the load as a pair, not with one as the lead back.
“We’d like to use those guys in multiple ways,” McKenzie said. “Those two, as the dynamic duo, could get it done. You don’t want to just ride one all the time. Those two guys are two pretty good little backs.
“But would you want a banger, sometimes, a bigger body to move the pile, or whatever? You could probably add something there.”
With Lynch, Oakland does that — but only if he’s healthy and focused. The Raiders were convinced enough by his visit earlier this month to acquire him.