Beast Mode Redux? Marshawn Lynch gives Raiders food for thought

Marshawn Lynch is overpowering opposing defenders in vintage "Beast Mode" fashion. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Marshawn Lynch is hitting his stride now, with two games remaining in the regular season and the Oakland Raiders all but eliminated from the playoff race.

Too little too late?

Maybe, but Lynch doing more than flashing his old "Beast Mode" ways of late should bode well for next season, as long as both Lynch and the Raiders are up for him returning for the second year of his two-year contract in 2018.

Consider: in averaging 2.36 yards after contact per rush this season, the 31-year-old Lynch ranks third in the NFL in that category, behind the Eagles' LeGarrette Blount (2.69) and the Saints' Mark Ingram (2.40).

And Lynch's after-contact-per-rush figure is his second-highest over a season since 2009, the first season ESPN Stats & Information began tracking the statistic.

"Marshawn's been Marshawn," Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn said before going down with a season-ending right foot injury last weekend. "He's been doing the same thing he's been doing. Things are just flowing better for us.

"We've been able to run the ball more because we're not getting behind early in games ... it's hard to run when you're down."

Ask anyone in the Raiders locker room or on the coaching staff and they will tell you Lynch has been a different player since returning from his one-game suspension for making contact with an official.

In the seven games before his suspension, Lynch rushed for 266 yards and one touchdown on 72 carries for a 3.7 yards per carry average.

In his six games since returning, Lynch has rushed for 429 yards and five TDs on 91 attempts for a 4.7 yards per carry average. In fact, his five rushing scores between Weeks 9 and 14 were tied for the most in the NFL in that time frame.

The Raiders won three of four after Lynch returned before Oakland dropped two straight, to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, to fall to 6-8.

Lynch and Blount will see each other Monday in Philadelphia (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

"Physical guy, runs extremely hard downhill," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Lynch on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "When I say physical, he doesn't shy away from contact. He's going to definitely punish tacklers. That's his demeanor. That's always been his demeanor."

Pederson said he thought the Raiders were "utilizing" Lynch more in the offense.

"It takes a little more pressure off the quarterback when you can run the ball like that," Pederson said. "You're just seeing, too, some of his leadership on the football field, whether you’re watching a TV copy game or even a coaches copy. You just understand who he is and what he is and you constantly see him talking to his teammates, his quarterback and leading the guys. Again, another player, a lot of respect."

Lynch, who had a base salary of $1.35 million this season, has a base salary of $4 million for 2018 and a $1 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the new league year in March, per ESPN Stats & Information. His 2018 contract has a cap value of $6 million.

"He definitely has an energy to him and a sense of urgency that I think is contagious," Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. "It's been fun to watch his influence on the young guys around him, not just in the running back room but his practice habits and attention to detail down the stretch here.

"Hopefully some that permeates the offense and we're able to see that character-wise throughout the group."

Time is growing short.