ALAMEDA (AP) — Marshawn Lynch sent a subtle message to the rest of the NFL when he had fellow running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington join him in running onto the field during pregame introductions before the Raiders’ home opener.
While Lynch was trying to show his two young teammates some love, the move was also indicative of how the trio is featured in the Raiders’ offense.
Lynch, the Oakland native who came out of retirement to play for his hometown team, is the featured runner and the marquee name in the backfield. Richard and Washington, both in their second year, are the understudies but actually much more than that.
So when the Raiders offense was getting ready to be introduced at the Coliseum prior to the New York Jets game, Lynch pulled Richard aside.
“We were getting ready to go out and he was like, ‘You and D-Wash, I want y’all to come out with me,’” Richard said. “I was like, ‘Yeah it’s cool if they say it’s cool or whatever.’ He was like, ‘Man it don’t matter what they say. Y’all boys coming out with me.’ That got me pumped from the get-go. That just let you know how much he believes in us and has the confidence in us.”
Richard is the team’s second-leading rusher and had a 52-yard touchdown run in the Raiders’ Week 2 win over the Jets. An undrafted player who earned a roster spot in Oakland a year ago, Richard also had a 39-yard reception that helped set up a touchdown in the second quarter.
Washington hasn’t gotten as many reps running the ball but he’s fourth on the team in receptions behind wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper and tight end Jared Cook.
The best part for Oakland? Neither of the two seems concerned over how many carries he gets.
“Because they’re efficient touches,” Richard said. “Those are touches that could be potentially explosive plays. They’re efficient and it’s to the look that we want. We just have a lot of weapons. Any day we can explode as long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn said Richard and Washington’s impact this season is part of the natural progression for both players.
“From year one to year two, you have to mature, you have to grow as a player, you have to start seeing things before they happen, you have to understand the schemes better,” Penn said Thursday.
“It just comes with development. Those guys are developing. Last year they developed faster than most rookies. They’re developing faster than they should and it’s helping our team very much.”
Richard and Washington played significant roles on Oakland’s offense a year ago when Latavius Murray was the centerpiece in the backfield. Murray signed with Minnesota as a free agent in the offseason and the Raiders replaced him with Lynch.
Although two games is a small sample size, Richard believes the Raiders running game is better than it was a year ago.
“And that’s nothing against Tay but me and D-Wash, we’ve grown as runners,” Richard said. “We’re accustomed to the league now. We know what to expect, we know how they are going to perform and come ready. And then along with the coaching from Marshawn, we’ve been able to just take our game to another level.”