Off-Season Troubles Behind Former Bear

This off-season, Marshawn Lynch's sophomore campaign did not start with a bang but with a crash. The former California Golden Bear may have used the best juke moves of his career when – not only did he avoid jail time – he avoided the wrath of the long arm of the NFL law, Roger Goodell. He received a small fine and a revoked license from the courts and no action from the league.

It has been nearly three months since Marshawn Lynch struck a pedestrian in the early morning hours near Buffalo's downtown bar district. On June 27, the Bills running back admitted to hitting the pedestrian on May 31. The plea was part of a deal reached by Lynch's lawyer and the Erie County district attorney's office, which allowed him to avoid a criminal charge.

With that episode in his rear view, Lynch is eager to use the same elusiveness on the field in 2008. He is firmly entrenched as the Buffalo Bills starting running back after a productive 1,000-yard rookie season. He, along with everyone else in Orchard Park, is expecting even more this year.

Each year, NFL analysts, writers and your everyday average Joe picks a list of dark horse teams who they think will come out of the shadow of mediocrity to become a legitimate playoff contender. You know the list that the Arizona Cardinals are on seemingly on every year. Well no other team in the AFC fits the bill (no pun intended) more than Buffalo.

To fulfill those lofty hopes, the Bills will rely heavily on their running game. QB Trent Edwards is coming into his first full season as the starter. He will not be counted on to win games in 2008. Lynch is used to carrying the load, the 2006 Heisman trophy candidate was the centerpiece of one of the best offenses in the nation his last two seasons in Berkeley.

The former Oakland Tech High School star (had to mention that since it's also my alma mater…) has a shifty yet powerful running style that allows him to break plenty of tackles and enough speed to get to the second level, delivering punishment to defensive backs in the AFC East. He is a capable – not great pass catcher – out of the backfield totaling 18 receptions last year.

Improving on his 1,115-yard total and getting to the 1,500-yard range will go far to elevating the Oakland native to elite status. However, he does have obstacles in his way.

The lengthy holdout of LT Jason Peters and the recent injury to RT Langston Walker will not do him any favors in that endeavor to raise those numbers. Even if the two massive tackles are out for an extended period, Lynch should have another good season. He is just too good of a back not too.

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