Tackle Donald Penn
Marshawn Lynch is a quick study.
While Donald Penn and Lynch have only been teammates now for a few months, their friendship goes back much further than that, so following news that Lynch had been acquired by the Oakland Raiders, the veteran left tackle had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the powerful running back on the field.
Penn had seen the violent runs, the brute strength, and the career highlight reel that showed one impressive touchdown run after another for No. 24.
What he didn't know though, was what Lynch brought to the meeting rooms, and the type of approach the powerful running back takes to studying the game.
"Marshawn, I've known him so long outside the field, hanging out, but seeing him in the meeting rooms and stuff, his knowledge for football, he's a very, very smart football-minded guy," said Penn recently at Lynch's Fam 1st Foundation youth football camp. "He's not just a running back, he knows coverages, he knows assignments, he knows schemes, and that was one of the things that stood out and surprised me."
Even though Lynch is less than three months removed from coming out of retirement, and being acquired by the Silver and Black, the new No. 24 has shown that he's hit the ground running, and already has a strong grasp of first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing's scheme.
And while Lynch makes his money operating from the backfield, taking handoffs from the quarterback, according to Penn, the veteran running back has jumped headfirst into understanding the nuances of the Raiders offense as a whole.
"He's picking up on the offense so fast," Penn explained. "And our offense is pretty tough to pick up on, and for him to be doing that at such a fast pace, that really stood out the most."
Lynch is certainly the biggest name – and likely the biggest personality – in the Raiders running backs room in 2017, but paired with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who are both coming off strong rookie campaigns, the Silver and Black look poised to boast a dynamic running backs group in the season ahead.
"I'm excited," Penn said. "Jalen started off the year great last year, and DeAndré came on strong. I wish we had five more games with DeAndré so he could have broken out more, because he started coming on so strong for us at the end of the year. I feel like they're just building and building, and they had a great OTAs [Organized Team Activities], and great offseason, great mini-camp. It's very exciting."
Exciting is probably a pretty good word to describe the 2017 Raiders. Not only has the team added Lynch to one of the NFL's premier offenses, but following a Week 16 injury, quarterback Derek Carr is healthy, motivated, and back in control of the Silver and Black's offense.
After a 12-4 effort in 2016, and with a majority of the team's young nucleus back intact for another year, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's group is a team with expectations, but ask Penn, and he'll tell you that the entire roster has its feet squarely off the hype train.
"I am looking forward to building with this group," Penn said. "I'm so happy they re-signed [guard] Gabe [Jackson], and D.C., [Carr] but we have to come back with it this year. Last year doesn't mean anything if we don't do anything this year, and us as an o-line, we all know that. All the guys know that, and we're putting in that work, and we're ready to go."
He continued, "You can't get caught up in the hype. That's one thing Jack Del Rio and our coaching staff is doing a great job of reminding us, [to] not get caught up in all that hype, because you can go into the season with all that hype, but you have to back it up. That's our main mission, is backing up the hype."
Veterans report to the Napa, Calif., for training camp July 28.