Marshawn Lynch looked like vintage Beast Mode this season, bulldozing and carrying multiple defenders on his back. Even after the bye week, Lynch is tied for the 12th most rushing touchdowns with three, but the team will be without his services for the foreseeable future. No. 24 was placed on the Injured/Reserve list Monday, making him eligible to return Week 16 against the Denver Broncos at the earliest.
Enter, Doug Martin.
The Stockton native has been waiting for his moment with his hometown team, and it appears the time has come. In the six games he's been a Raider, Martin has only rushed 27 times for a total of 99 yards, but the coaching staff is ready to give him a bigger role in the ground game.
"We think Doug is the feature back," Head Coach Jon Gruden said Monday. "He's had 1,500 yards in this league twice. He's practiced hard. He's ready to go. I think you've all see Jalen Richard has carved out a unique role. He's a really good player. We'll try to get more out of him as we have been doing in recent weeks. To have DeAndré [Washington] back, a guy that Raider fans know can run it and catch it, gives us some versatility that we'll try to use as well."
Jalen Richard has been effective this season in his role as a third down passing option for Derek Carr, making the most of his time on the field. Richard, and Washington – who has been inactive every game this season – have shown in the past they're able to create problems out of the backfield. Whether it's rushing or receiving, the dynamic duo can provide a spark to this offense. I expect both to see similar reps going forward, but Martin is going to be the primary runner in Gruden's offense, and the coaching staff feels comfortable with that.
Hit the practice field with the Raiders players and coaches for another practice in preparation for their Week 8 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
"It's good that we have Doug Martin here," Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday. "And he's an experienced football player that's had a lot of success in this league, so I think we're fortunate to have him backing up Marshawn."
When Martin signed with the Raiders in March he knew he'd be sharing the field with Lynch, and knew that it was mostly his backfield, but he took things in stride, and kept an open mind. He knows Lynch's impact stems further than the field, but he's ready to try and fill the void.
"Marshawn was a big part in this team, great guy, and it's tough to see him go down. I hope he recovers well," Martin said when asked how he'll try to replace Lynch. "I was in a similar situation in Boise [State], I was on the defense actually, and our running back ended up tearing his ACL and [the coaching staff] asked me to come back over, and the rest is history. I've been in this situation before, and I'm glad I'm getting an opportunity."
I know it was a couple years ago, but at two separate points in his career Martin has surpassed 1,400 yards, which is not an easy task by any means, even in today's offense-heavy NFL. Sure, the former Boise State Bronco had a couple down years in Tampa Bay, but he's capable of gashing defenses for big gains. Considering he hasn't been used a ton this season, Martin has some fresh legs still; he's got plenty of tread left on the tires, and he's ready to be the lead guy once again.
"I feel good, fresh legs," Martin explained. "Just making sure that when it's time to go I was ready."
He continued, "I've been a lead guy since high school, so it was definitely something that was difficult for me. I got people behind me in my ear telling me to keep working hard, and keep pushing and my time will come."
The Indianapolis Colts will be Martin's first test this Sunday, and they're currently allowing 110.9 rushing yards per game. We'll see if the offensive line can open up some running lanes for Martin and Co., but seeing how he handles his new role will be one of the main storylines this weekend.