Can Marshawn recover?
Yes, Freddie Jackson's is a wonderful story. From Division III Coe College to the arena league, then to NFL Europe and starting tailback for the Bills ... how can you not root for this guy?
Jackson, easily the most reliable Bill in the past two seasons, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and looks to have a bright future in Buffalo. The team knows what it will get with Jackson. But the great unknown, and more critical to the Bills' plans in 2010 and beyond, is Marshawn Lynch. Bills fans, always reactionary and endlessly supporting the underdog, are probably through with him, given his myriad personal issues and sudden difficulty on the field.
Not me. I'm expecting a big comeback from Lynch, whose best football might still be ahead of him. (Note: This post was written before Lynch's TGI Friday's controversy.)
Lynch ran for a paltry 450 yards in a truly forgettable 2009 campaign. It didn't help that he was suspended for the first three games, but he was a shadow of his old self (1,115 in his rookie year, 1,036 in 2008) upon his less-than-triumphant return. NFL running backs have as long a shelf life as an open jar of mayonnaise on a July day in Death Valley, so time is running out, especially for Lynch, whose smashmouth style shortens that shelf life.
Even a guy like Lynch, long on ability but short on brains, must realize it's a make-or-break year after appearing tentative and listless this season. It's not at all a reach to expect him to return to his once-bulldozing form.
Of course, a nice first start would have been to have an uneventful offseason. No hit-and-runs, no weed, no loaded weapons. In short, behave. Please! Maybe just try it on for one offseason and see how it suits you? (Editor's note: Too late ...)
Lynch is no longer guaranteed a big second contract, so it's not much to ask that he focus on football for a change, his one and only livelihood, between now and July. He should spend no small amount of that time reviewing tapes of his rookie seasons, which he spent punishing opposing defenses and finding yardage where there was none to be had. Perhaps he'll see that he was an absolute meatgrinder who left defenders bruised and tattered; a guy to whom defenses had to devote a big part of their gameplan.
That's the Lynch the Bills need, and not the one who two-stepped his way out of the lineup by December. Of all the has-beens and also-rans Perry fewell had to choose from, he had the least confidence in Lynch. Wake-up call served and witnessed.
Truth be told, the Bills need Lynch as much as he needs them. None of us know who will line up at quarterback in September, but it's a fair wager that it won't anyone who can magically ignite the team's Hindenburg of a passing attack. That puts the onus on Jackson, but he can't carry this grand piano on his back himself. Buffalo really could have used the 2007 and 2008 Lynch this past season, and will need nothing less than that in 2010.
If The Beast continues to morph into The Bust, like so many other draftees of the John Guy-Tom Modrak era, the fortunes of the franchise won't change anytime soon. Write him off if you wish, like so many did before with Jackson.
Me? I'm betting on the Beast, whose re-emergence would go a long way toward curing what ills the offense.