Would Marshawn Lynch really improve the Oakland Raiders?

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 28: Running back Marshawn Lynch
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 28: Running back Marshawn Lynch /
2 of 3
SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 22: Marshawn Lynch
SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 22: Marshawn Lynch /

Beyond the jersey sales and season ticket promotions, the question remains: how much does Marshawn Lynch have left to offer on the field? It’s a reasonable question despite his reputation as a running back and memories of the running back bouncing off of one would-be tackler after another. That’s because Lynch hasn’t played a single down of professional football in 492 days.

Even during his last season, there were fewer sightings of the player he once was. Sure, there was a 122-yard effort in a win against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, in his seven games played in 2015, it was the only 100-plus yard effort. He wouldn’t have another game above 75 yards, and he turned in fair-to-poor performances against the Dallas Cowboys (3.4 yards/carry), Chicago Bears (2.8) and Green Bay Packers (2.7). For the year, he averaged 3.8 yards/carry, his worst total since 2010.

Lynch returned in January from the sports hernia surgery that had sidelined him since mid-November to play in the Seahawks’ playoff game versus the Carolina Panthers. He rushed a mere 6 times for only 20 yards (3.3 yards/carry) and caught 2 passes for 15 yards. The Seahawks all but abandoned the rush in their efforts to match Carolina’s offense, and just like that, Lynch’s career was officially over.

Word is that Lynch has stayed in shape and that readiness wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s fair to ask how much is left in the tank at this point? Is Beast Mode still a reality or a memory? Is this more about offseason excitement than regular season results? Or is Reggie McKenzie really buying into Lynch’s remarkable return to the field?

The drop-off comes quickly for running backs, and the cliché about the age 30 season exists for a reason. In the two full seasons prior to his retirement, Lynch led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in both 2013 and 2014, so if McKenzie is hopeful, it’s likely because he’s pointing to those figures in particular. Yet a full season feels like a lifetime in the NFL, and things change so rapidly that next man up is a reality in this multi-billion dollar business.