At 32, Marshawn Lynch is a senior citizen among running backs. After age 30, most ball carriers start to decline.
The Raiders’ Lynch, however, is off to a terrific start in 2018. Now in his 11th NFL season – not including 2016, when he retired for a year after nearly six seasons with the Seahawks – Lynch ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 300. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry (his best average since 2014).
Plus, the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is running as hard as he ever has. According to the analytic website Pro Football Focus, 254 of his 300 yards have come after contact and he leads the NFL, forcing 20 missed tackles.
In the Raiders’ 45-42 overtime victory over the Browns this past Sunday, Lynch was a force, rushing for 130 yards on just 20 carries, with one breakaway for 52 yards. He also caught three passes for 27 yards.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Monday that Lynch is as good as he’s ever been.
“If that’s not a Hall of Fame back, I don’t know what is, honestly,” Gruden told reporters. “What he did yesterday, what he’s done since he’s been here, it’s incredible. He wants the ball more and more and more. This guy does not want to come off the field. He picked up six or seven blitzes yesterday, too, that no one’s talking about. But some of the runs? Good night.”
Gruden said Lynch’s hard-running, tackle-breaking style is one of a kind in the NFL.
“Some of the runs he’s making, some of the finishes that he’s putting on tape, it’s unbelievable,” said Gruden. “I don’t see many guys run like this.”
Gruden said, too, that he’s going to keep Lynch on the field for as long as Lynch wants to play. The Raiders have Doug Martin and Jalen Richard ready to get snaps, but Lynch has been too good to relieve.
Lynch has been a positive force on the roster even when he’s not carrying the ball or blocking blitzers, said Gruden. When the Raiders dropped to 0-3 with a loss to the Dolphins the previous week, Lynch told the media things would turn around.
“I think what’s most important is that we rally behind each other, more than anything,” Lynch said. “If you are on the outside looking in, it looks terrible. But we know what we have in this locker room. So if we get behind each other, I think we’ll be able to turn this around.”
The Raiders will try for victory No. 2 this Sunday at Carson’s Home Depot Center vs. the 2-2 Chargers. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.