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Raiders backfield a ‘three-headed monster’

Updated September 20, 2017 - 10:57 pm

ALAMEDA, Calif. — It was one part comedy, one part horror.

On Sunday evening, the Raiders will face the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland. In advance to the matchup, Redskins coach Jay Gruden engaged in his usual weekly preparation, reviewing game footage of his opponent.

Marshawn Lynch’s film was a highlight, he said.

It fit multiple genres.

“He’s fun to watch,” Gruden said in a conference call Wednesday. “You don’t like to say that about other people. It’s actually fun and terrifying to watch him at the same time. You know you’re going to have to go against him.”

Even scarier: The Raiders’ backfield film is a trilogy.

The first two games of the season have shown Lynch to be fresh after a one-year retirement. But Weeks 1 and 2 also demonstrated the Raiders coaching staff’s commitment to keep him that way. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are very much involved in this backfield picture.

And for good reason.

Their game footage plays, too.

Richard displayed his shiftiness and dynamism Sunday with 109 yards on eight offensive touches. Those chances included a short catch he took for 39 yards after evading a Jets defender in the open field. He also cut left on a pitch right, his speed and teammates’ blocking helping to produce a 52-yard score.

Washington had nine touches Sunday for 35 yards. He and Richard are similar players in regard to their capacity to contribute in a number of roles, be it as a runner, receiver or blocker in pass protection. So far this season, they are rotated into action after Lynch is featured in a game’s first two series.

Both also are improving as second-year players. Washington joined the team as a fifth-round draft pick in 2016. Richard was an undrafted free agent.

“Mentally they can see the run happen before they actually get the ball,” coach Jack Del Rio said of their progression. “They can see how it’s going to play out. The game slows down, the holes open up a little bit slower for them. They can see it beforehand, those kind of things. So, that’s just running the ball.

“Now, protectionwise, they were both pretty good last year mentally, and they’ve taken another step forward this year in that.”

A selfless culture seems to exist in the team’s running back room.

On Sunday, it was Richard who was more productive behind Lynch. This Sunday, Washington knows it could be him.

The main obstacle pertaining to this weekend, though, might be health. Washington was listed as limited on the Raiders’ injury report Wednesday with a hamstring ailment. Such muscle injuries tend to be temperamental, but more clarity will come Thursday.

Tight end Jared Cook (shoulder), wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee) and cornerback Gareon Conley (shin) were the team’s only other limited participants Wednesday.

In two games, Lynch has played 55 offensive snaps. Richard has 31 and Washington 29.

“We’ve grown as runners,” Richard said. “After that first rookie year, we’re accustomed to the league now. We know what to expect. … Along with coaching from Marshawn, we’ve been able to take our games to the next level.”

Said Washington: “We feed off each other’s energy. I love to see them doing good. That gets me going. That hypes me up. … For four quarters, we’re pretty fresh. Nobody is taking too heavy of a load, so I think it really will paid its dividends as the season goes on. It’s a three-headed monster.”

As if Lynch wasn’t scary enough.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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