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Gore had 1,302 total yards and eight touchdowns with the Colts last season. And he did that behind an offensive line that won’t touch the quality of what Lynch now has to work with in Oakland.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn went to his second Pro Bowl and left guard Kelechi Osemele signed a record free agent contract last season (Osemele andcenter Rodney Hudson also made the Pro Bowl). Oakland’s line featured the best pass protection in the NFL, per FootballOutsiders, but also ranked in the top 10 in run blocking.
Lynch may need to resolve how to run without having to break so many tackles this time around, and instead of having to revive an offense, he now has to find his place in one of the best in the league.
Quarterback Derek Carr has thrown 60 touchdowns over the last two seasons, while Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree became the first Raiders duo to gain 1,000 yards in the same year since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in 2001. That was back when Lynch was still just a sophomore at Oakland Tech High School, rooting for the Raiders as they lost in the “tuck rule” game that season and then made it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1983 the following year. And that motivation to help his favorite team regain their glory days just as they prepare to jump ship from Oakland to Las Vegas could be the main reason why Lynch is set to be an NFL star one more time.
In an interview this week, Raiders legend John Madden couldn’t have summed up the decision to leave Oakland better than he did with the phrase, “Boom, it just goes away.” The Raiders may have been in a precarious spot with their dying stadium, they may have been losing more money than they average pro team and perhaps moving to a new city was the right move – albeit a hypocritical one to choose Las Vegas for a league that punishes players for gambling in Las Vegas – but the franchise has spent 43 of their 57 seasons in Oakland and broke the city’s heart for a second time just when they started to get good again after 13 years of being historically abysmal.Lynch is the parting gift they deserve, and a Super Bowl could be coming next.
The Raiders were 12-3 last season before Carr broke his leg and doomed their chances of a deep postseason run. Former Oakland back Latavius Murray is decent, but his desire to break tackles and the reality of how capable he really is of doing so never lined up. Last season, Murray was quoted as saying, “This year I’m just making sure I use my size to my advantage, breaking tackles, trying to run through guys.”That last part, “Trying to run through guys,” really stands out. Probably because Lynch said it first and said it better: “Run through a motherfucker face.”
The Raiders have the quarterback, receivers and the offensive line. Now they finally have the back. Lynch managed just 3.8 yards per carry in his last season with Seattle and missed nine games due to injury, but he also just didn’t seem that motivated. A contract holdout in 2014 may have been the beginning of what soured the relationship between him and Seattle’s front office, and by 2015 he seemed content with missing games; Pete Carroll said the week before the Seahawks wild card playoff game against the Vikings that Lynch was a full-go in practice and ready to play, then suddenly he was ruled out without much explanation. He’d return in the divisional round against the Panthers, rushing for just 20 yards on six carries, then retired with a tweet during the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Lynch didn’t seem hungry in Seattle anymore.Now Lynch seems ready to jump through hoops to return and finally has his chance to say goodbye to the NFL – and the Raiders the chance to say goodbye to Oakland – in the most appropriate way possible. Going out on top, and at home.