ALAMEDA — When the Oakland Raiders brought in Marshawn Lynch to run behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines featuring three Pro Bowlers, the thought was it would add another dynamic element to one of the league’s top offenses.
Instead, the past two weeks Oakland hasn’t been able to get off the ground.
The Raiders are coming off the worst two-game stretch of running for the franchise in more than two decades, and they are now counting even more on the running game to support backup quarterback E.J. Manuel with Derek Carr sidelined with a broken bone in his back.
“It’s no big secret how talented we are up front, how talented Marshawn is,” said blocking tight end Lee Smith, a key part of the run game. “It’s on us as players, coaches, everybody from the top down to get this run game going. It’s a lot easier to call second-and-6 than it is to call second-and-9. ... It affects everybody when the run game is not going. Give credit to the two defenses we played, too. They stuffed us; we have to be men and fix it.”
After gaining 32 yards on 13 carries in a 27-10 loss at Washington two weeks ago, the Raiders were even worse against Denver, with 24 yards on 15 carries.
The 56 yards rushing in two weeks are the lowest for the team since 1995 and this marks just the second time in franchise history the Raiders were held under 35 yards rushing in consecutive games.
Left tackle Donald Penn said watching the film was encouraging because there are no major issues to fix. Instead, the problem has mostly been one or two players not executing perfectly on a given play.
“You have to have all 11 on the same page,” Penn said. “We’re close. That’s the thing that makes it so frustrating. We’re so close, but close doesn’t get you anywhere in the NFL.”
With the running game stalled, the Raiders’ entire offense has struggled. Oakland has been held to 10 points or fewer in consecutive games for the first time since 2009.
A major issue has been lack of production on third down, when Oakland has converted 2 of 23 opportunities. That has led to stalled drives and the inability to get into any kind of flow offensively.
“It certainly helps you get to more of your plays,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “When you’re not converting your third downs, you leave a bunch on your call sheet.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie has stressed building the offense from the line out during his tenure in Oakland. The Raiders are paying a league-high $42.4 million to the line, more than one-quarter of this year’s salary cap.
The unit features Pro Bowlers in Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson; an emerging star at right guard in Gabe Jackson and right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
That was supposed to lead to big holes for Lynch, who came out of retirement this year to play for the hometown Raiders before they move to Las Vegas in 2020. Lynch ran for 121 yards and a touchdown in the first two games but has been limited to 30 yards on 15 carries the past two games.