Returning from an abbreviated retirement, Marshawn Lynch was in vintage "Beast Mode" form last week in the Oakland Raiders' opener, making the highlight shows by trucking 300-pound defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Lynch didn't resemble a 31-year-old running back who spent a year traveling the world and popping up in an occasional TV commercial.
"What's funny is, I was just thinking that same thing," New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams said Monday, laughing. "I was like, this is a guy who just retired and re-entered the league and he's still one of the top running backs. It's pretty amazing to see that. He's a great running back."
One week after getting slashed by Buffalo's LeSean McCoy, the Jets must prepare for another formidable challenge. This will test them in a different way. Unlike McCoy, an elusive, east-west runner, Lynch is a downhill nightmare. For the Jets, it's like going from a boxer to a brawler.
Lynch rushed for 76 yards in his Raiders debut, with 10 of his 18 carries coming in the fourth quarter of their 26-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Sunday is the home opener, Lynch's first game as a Raider in his hometown of Oakland. The Black Hole will be crazy -- or, shall we say, crazier than usual.
A closer look at the Raiders:
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
QB Derek Carr. Memo to the Jets: This is the kind of player you need to find. Carr is a 26-year-old franchise quarterback who hasn't reached his ceiling. He threw 81 touchdowns in his first three seasons, the fourth-most in history (behind Dan Marino, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning). One of his best attributes is his ability to rally his team from behind. In 2016, he posted 15 touchdown passes and only one interception while trailing. He was rewarded with a five-year, $125 million contract extension.
WR Amari Cooper. The Jets didn't face any big-time receivers last week; that changes in Oakland. Cooper is one of the top young wideouts in the sport, the first Raider since Jerry Rice (2001-2002) to reach 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. He runs terrific routes and makes a lot of yards after the catch. He's coming off a subpar opener -- only five catches on 12 targets.
WR Michael Crabtree. The Jets loved him in the 2009 draft. In fact, they were accused of tampering during his prolonged rookie holdout with the San Francisco 49ers, who apparently thought the Jets were trying to convince him to ask for a trade. The Niners eventually dropped the charges. Crabtree, who signed with the Raiders in 2015, is dangerous on third down. He and Cooper each reached the 1,000-yard mark in 2016, becoming only the third tandem in team history to accomplish that.
ONE PLAYER TO KNOW, DEFENSE
DE Khalil Mack. Two words: Game. Wrecker. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year might be best edge rusher in the game, having recorded a league-high 26 sacks over the last two years. Mack, who registered five quarterback pressures and two tackles for loss in the opener, will be a free agent in 2018. Relax, Jets fans, he's not going anywhere. Another two words: Franchise. Tag.
ONE PLAYER TO KNOW, SPECIAL TEAMS
PK Giorgio Tavecchio. He was one of the best stories of Week 1. Previously cut three times by the Raiders, Tavecchio was promoted from the practice squad last week when Sebastian Janikowski was placed on injured reserve. Tavecchio became the first player in NFL history to make two 50-yard field goals in his debut -- a couple of 52-yarders, to be exact.