Raiders' 26th-ranked rushing attack needs Beast Mode to return to form


Raiders' 26th-ranked rushing attack needs Beast Mode to return to form

SARASOTA, Fla. – Marshawn Lynch arrived at the Ritz Carlton hotel here around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, right on schedule.

His entrance was unceremonious, escorted by Raiders security through the lobby, right into a elevator. Just like that, Marshawn was back.

He spent last week suspended, forced away from the team by NFL as punishment for unsportsmanlike conduct in a Week 7 victory over Kansas City. We all know the story by now, that Lynch left the sideline to join an on-field skirmish, made contact with an official trying to get great friend, fellow Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters out of harm’s way.

He lost a week’s wages and an opportunity to help the Raiders stay on track after the Chiefs win. The Raiders fell off in a 34-14 loss to Buffalo, where every running back fumbled. Lynch has fumbled once since the 2014 season’s start.

The Raiders needed efficient runs. He wasn’t there to provide them.

Head coach Jack Del Rio wasn’t thrilled with Lynch’s suspension or the punishment-worthy actions, though he has strayed from publicly criticizing him much when given the chance.

The Raiders need all hands on deck trying to make a second-half run.

“He’s a physical guy. He brings passion for the game,” Del Rio said. “Those are things that we welcome back.”

Lynch is a popular locker-room presence. His return the team was welcomed.

"He’s a great guy. He’s a funny guy, keeps everybody up,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “We know what he brings to the game of football. We look forward to having him back this week.”

His role hasn’t been clearly defined. He was averaging 10 carries and 3.7 yards per game, a relatively disappointing sum for someone expected to lift the Raiders run game. The ground attack has looked lost at times, and seemed to be featuring Jalen Richard/DeAndre Washington against the Chiefs.

Those two didn’t preform well in Buffalo, however, meaning Lynch could return to a steadier carry volume often required for him to wear down a defense.

The Raiders rank a dismal 26th in rushing, with just 88 yards per game. They’d like to be steadier Sunday against a Miami defense that’s the NFL’s 8th best. The goal this week is to dictate tempo with physicality.

“He’s a physical player, we all know that,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “…When you get a guy like Marshawn who does that really well, I think we’re more apt to let him do those kinds of things. Whatever it is, whatever we have to do as a team, I think we’re all in. I think our guys are understanding that there’s no room for mistakes now. We have to go out and we have to perform. We to go and do it in a physical manner.”

He can be a tone setter when going strong, and must do that more often in the second half.

“Marshawn is a great player, a great running back, a really tough runner,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “He adds value to our offense.”

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”