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Pick Six: Will The Young Running Backs Break Out Against The New York Jets?


Running Back Jalen Richard

Last weekend was fun, but there's nothing quite like the home opener.

After handling business, and taking down the Tennessee Titans 26-16 last weekend at Nissan Stadium, the Oakland Raiders officially kick off their 2017 home slate of games this Sunday against the New York Jets.

Hoping to build off their win over the Titans, the Silver and Black will have their hands full against the Jets, so before the game officially kicks off; here are six things to keep an eye on during the Week 2 matchup.

1. Beast Mode comes home

When the Raiders acquired Marshawn Lynch in April, this is the day that many people – myself included – had circled on the calendar.

After over a decade in the league, 128 games, five Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl win, the Oakland native is finally, *finally, *going to strap the pads on in front of his city, as a Raider.

Lynch said back in June that during these home games he's going to have the whole Town riding with him, and I can't wait to see what that looks like come Sunday.

Hearing No. 24 announced to the masses pregame is going to be a moment that will certainly resonate for Raider Nation for a long, long time.

2. Will it be back-to-back good games for the defense?

The Silver and Black's defense raised some eyebrows – in a good way – last week against the Titans, limiting one of the top rushing attacks in the AFC to under 100 yards, en route to a 26-16 Raiders win.

Outside of the opening drive, Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group made life incredibly difficult for Marcus Mariota and the Titans, and I'll be excited to see if they can give keep that positive momentum rolling against the Jets.

Linebacker Cory James said that the performance against the Titans gave the unit as a whole a boost of confidence, so keep an eye on the defense this Sunday, and see if they can throw off what the Jets are trying to accomplish offensively.

3. Will Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington get rolling?

Is Marshawn Lynch capable of handling the bulk of the Raiders carries in 2017? Absolutely, but with two talented, complementary backs in Richard and Washington on the roster, there's really no need to ride the 31-year-old Lynch harder than need be.

The veteran running back carried the ball 18 times in the win over the Titans last week, while Richard and Washington combined for just six rushes for 26 yards.

In 2016, the Silver and Black's rushing attack was at its most dynamic when the team's trio of backs all got rolling, and I assume that will once again be the case in 2017.

Will the pair of second-year backs get some more touches and put their mark on Sunday's game? We'll have to wait to find out.

4. Giorgio Tavecchio – the second chapter

I don't know if you could have a better debut than Giorgio Tavecchio's first taste of regular season action last Sunday at Nissan Stadium. At game's end, the Italian national had gone four for four on field goals, including a pair of 52 yarders that made him the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat in his debut.

So now the question is, can he keep it up?

With Sebastian Janikowski on the Reserve/Injured list, Tavecchio figures to be the man handling the kicking duties going forward for the Silver and Black. Everyone loves a good sequel, so here's to hoping Tavecchio keeps the hype train rolling Sunday afternoon.

5. Is it Gareon Conley time?

Well, it sure sounds like it.

After not playing in the preseason, or the first week of the regular season, all indications are that we'll see the Raiders first-round draft pick, cornerback Gareon Conley make his Raiders debut this Sunday.

After getting his first full day of practice in on Thursday, No. 22 was a full participant in Friday's practice as well, and is officially off the injury report for the clash with the Jets.

As Head Coach Jack Del Rio would say… stay tuned.

6. Does Jamize Olawale return?

Jamize Olawale is one of those players who quietly goes about his business, does his job, and makes the guys around him on the team better.

The physical fullback missed last week's game against the Titans, but is now questionable for Sunday's game against the Jets.

It's no secret that Marshawn Lynch is one of the most physical runners in the NFL, but I'd love to see what he could do running behind a monster lead blocker like Olawale.

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