Despite spending the 2016 season away from the game, it is clear that Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch hasn't missed a step. The Redskins are preparing for his best this Sunday.
Ever since he entered the league in 2007 with the Buffalo Bills, Marshawn Lynch has left a profound mark on the NFL. Off the field, he has a charismatic, vibrant personality that is mirrored by no one. On the field, he is a hard-nosed bruiser of a running back that will likely end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day.
Seemingly everything about Lynch is unique, which provides the Redskins defense with a challenge as they prepare for Sunday night's showdown with the Raiders.
For a running back that has a reputation of being especially hard to bring to the ground, "team defense" is the key, noted several Redskins players and personnel.
"Just swarm to the ball," said linebacker Mason Foster this week. "So, if one guy misses or if one guy slips off, someone is right there to make a tackle. It's about team defense and it's going to take all 11 guys to get to the ball."
Head coach Jay Gruden has been stressing much of the same as his starting linebacker. He also noted the challenge of going up against Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley and Lynch in consecutive weeks, two great running backs with two very different playing styles.
"[Gurley] might jump over one guy and the next guy's going to have to come get him. Marshawn might stiff arm one guy but the next two or three guys are going to come get him," Gruden said. "[It's] got to be a group effort and we've got to run to the football – all 11 of them on defense have got to pursue to the football with great passion."
In his 11-year career, the running back has amassed more than 5,600 rushing yards after contact and has broken over 600 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. It should come as no surprise that Redskins players and coaches are emphasizing the importance of team defense ahead of Sunday night's matchup.
Lynch grabbed many headlines when he announced his retirement following the 2015 season at the age of 29. His retirement was, of course, short-lived as he is now back on the field with his hometown Raiders. Despite the one-year break from the game, however, Redskins coaches see much of the same great production from the 31-year-old.
When asked if he saw any lag in Lynch's game after his year off, Gruden responded quite bluntly: "No. No lags. He looks fine."
So far this season, Lynch has totaled 121 rushing yards on 30 attempts and has scored one touchdown.
"[I've] played him many times. He's a beast," said defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "It is just like – it is just like he is regular or has been the past couple years, the same player that I remember when he was up in Buffalo... and Seattle."