Raiders relying on surging Lynch


Raiders relying on surging Lynch

OAKLAND – Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s third carry of the game went 51 yards for a touchdown. Kelechi Osemele pulled to clear a path on the right side, Lynch busted through into open space and galloped into the end zone without much resistance.

Consider the play vital in Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the New York Giants. It was his longest since Dec. 21, 2014. It kickstarted an inconsistent Raiders offense playing without Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

It wasn’t his best play of the day. That came on 3rd-and-7 early in the fourth quarter, with the Raiders up just a field goal. That’s when Lynch went full Beast Mode.

Derek Carr found Lynch in the flat, with a defender bearing down. He looped left around one Giant, cut right past another. He ran over the next man up, while carrying somebody else on his back. He trudged another 10 yards after that, with a pack trying to bring him down. Vintage Lynch took 21 yards in total on a play, one that belongs on a highlight reel.

It’s something he often did during golden years in Seattle. It’s something he’s doing more and more down the stretch.

“He’s getting stronger as the season goes on,” running back DeAndre Washington said. “It’s hard to tackle that man for four quarters, you know what I am saying? He is going to wear you down regardless if he is getting two yards or the 50-yarder like he busted today. He is going to wear guys down and at this point in the season we are really going to need him.”

That was especially true Sunday, with so many skill players out. Lynch came through with 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, with two more catches for 20 yards. It fits a recent trend of Lynch running strong.

He has 68 carries for 292 yards and four touchdowns over his last four games, averaging 4.3 yards per rush in that span. There’s an easy dividing line in production there. Lynch was just okay, maybe a bit worse, early in the year.

The break isn’t hard to find. There has been a difference in production after he returned from a one-game suspension. Lynch missed the Week 8 loss to Buffalo as punishment for making contact with an official in a Week 7 win over Kansas City. Head coach Jack Del Rio has referenced a post-Buffalo change in Lynch several times, including Sunday night.

“I’ve seen a little more pep in the step,” Del Rio said. “There’s a little more…I can’t speak for him, I just know what I see. It’s been good. I welcome it, and we’re taking full advantage of it.”

It wasn’t just the suspension. Lynch took some time adjusted to the Raiders scheme, and the coaches and blockers to him, early in the year. That adjustment period has wrapped, and Lynch seems to feel more comfortable with his runs.

“He’s finally getting his legs back under him, and it’s showing,” said linebacker Bruce Irvin, Lynch’s teammate in Seattle. “You can tell.”

Lynch didn’t speak for himself after the latest win. He used colorful phrasing to say couldn’t talk due to a random NFL drug test, and didn’t return to the locker room.

The Raiders can see an uptick in production and comfort, and plan to capitalize on it down the stretch.

"He’s running hard, so he’s more confident, and it’s only going to get better from here," Osmele said in an interview with "He’s rolling right now, so we have to keep doing our job up front and keep him rolling like that.”

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.”