ALAMEDA, Calif. — Other teams may have felt anxiety Tuesday upon learning their most accomplished and physical running back lost his suspension appeal, finalizing his one-game absence for the upcoming week.
Not the Raiders.
Not with their backfield.
Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will assume the bulk of Sunday’s workload against the Buffalo Bills, as Marshawn Lynch serves a suspension for having made contact with an official during last Thursday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Fullback Jamize Olawale, too, is sure to see an expanded role.
While Lynch’s absence figures to be felt, this won’t necessarily be a worse offense without him.
“They don’t have the size and the power,” coach Jack Del Rio said of Richard and Washington. “But they have a little more quickness; they catch the ball a little easier, better route-runners, things like (that). So, if you’re playing a little more wide open, in some respects, they give you a little more juice.”
“Sometimes, when Marshawn is in the game, some of the things we do can get picked up on,” Richard said. “When you watch, (coaches) throw us in really on any plays. We have so much different variety. We have the ability to line up in the slot. We’ll be able to spread the field more. You’ve got to worry about different types of plays. Obviously, we’re different types of players. You’ve got to worry about us in space.”
Lynch, 31, has played 150 offensive snaps in seven games.
On 75 of them, he’s carried the football. He’s run a route on 54 of his 75 other snaps while pass blocking 19 times and serving as a run blocker twice, according to Pro Football Focus. This represents an active attempt from the Raiders’ coaching staff not to have Lynch carry on an overly high percentage of his reps, maintaining an element of unpredictability for defenses.
Only so much, however, can be done.
Lynch is not a true threat on those 54 snaps as a receiver. He’s only been targeted nine times (16.7 percent of routes) with four catches for 38 yards and a drop. By comparison, Richard and Washington have been targeted on 25 and 28 percent of their routes, respectively. They’ve combined to catch 26 of 33 passes for 227 yards.
“Marshawn give you the power back when you want to finish people and in tough situations,” Del Rio said of Lynch, who leads with the Raiders with 15 forced missed tackles, per PFF. “Those guys give you more than a change of pace.”
Sunday’s trio has experience in this role.
In 2016, running back Latavius Murray missed two games to a foot injury. Richard and Washington, both rookies at the time, and Olawale filled in from Weeks 5 and 6. Richard had 97 total yards on 14 touches during the first week; Olawale rushed six times for 22 yards and a touchdown.
Washington had 10 carries for 49 yards the following week.
He and Richard are now a year better as young, developing rushers.
“We’re fully confident in ourselves,” Washington said. “It was an unfortunate situation with Marshawn, no doubt. But it’s familiar territory for us, speaking for Jalen, me and ‘Maze.’ Last year, a few games when Latavius was hurt, we had to step up. We kind of embrace that. As soon as we found out on Thursday that Marshawn was getting kicked out of the game, we knew we had to step up, so we had to take that on our shoulders.”
This isn’t to say the Raiders are downplaying Lynch’s loss.
They understand what he offers as a bruising force. Richard said that what may have been a 4-yard run for Lynch might only go for only 2 yards with another back on the team. Lynch is a different runner than them. For better or worse, they are different runners than him.
That’s the point.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what (the Bills) try to throw at us,” Richard said, “and see how much they feel a threat of me and D-Wash and our offense in this type of style without Marshawn.”