There’s good news and bad news regarding Lynn Bowden Jr. during his time at training camp with the Las Vegas Raiders.
On the plus side, the former Kentucky superstar is flashing his elite versatility on the field, lining up at running back, wide receiver and as a returner on special teams.
On the negative, Bowden has yet to show off his speed and has been deemed a “project” by Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden.
“Rookie running back Lynn Bowden might (we’re hedging a little) be used in a variety of ways,” Vic Tafur of The Athletic said of the former Wildcat. “… Bowden is being used at running back, out wide and in the return game but hasn’t flashed a lot of speed (yet?). It is hard to judge too much from practices and the lack of preseason games hurts for a guy like Bowden who primarily played receiver and quarterback at Kentucky.
“Gruden called him “a project” last week.”
While Bowden hasn’t exactly taken the football world by storm in his first several weeks of camp, his teammate in the running back room believes he will be “fine.”
“He’s been really hands-on with trying to learn and take in what (running back coach) Kirby (Wilson) is saying,” Raiders running back Jalen Richard said on Friday, via Tafur. “He’s asking me questions, Josh (Jacobs), everybody in the room is just helping him as far as this running back transition goes for him. I think he’s going to be fine.”
Earlier this month – a little over three months after being drafted – the team openly discussed the Youngstown, OH native as a potential quarterback option, utilizing him the same way Kentucky did this past season.
“Right now, we have him working out of the running backs room,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said at the time. “He’s meeting with Kirby Wilson, the running backs coach, but also he’s had to learn a lot of things that we do at the quarterback position.”
However they can make it happen, the Raiders said they wanted to make sure they can put the ball in Bowden’s hands.
“You see the game changing from year to year, the use of the RPOs (run-pass options) and the use of the Taysom Hills, those type of players that played the RPO-style offense in college, they become valuable,” Olson said. “… We believe that he can transition and be a running back, as well as do some of those plays at the quarterback position that he did in college.”
After drafting the star playmaker in the third round, the Raiders said they planned on using Bowden in a ‘joker’ role, one that allows him to take on multiple jobs and make a difference all over the field.
“Ultimately, he’ll probably be what we call a ‘joker,’ which is what I love in Jon [Gruden]’s offense,” Las Vegas GM Mike Mayock told ESPN. “It’s somebody who can do multiple jobs. But day one, he’s going to come in and be a running back.
“In the SEC two years ago, he caught 60-70 passes as a slot [receiver]. Last year, as you guys know, he was quarterback/wildcat … we think he’s one of the most athletic, tougher guys in this year’s draft. We’re going to train him to be running back. If he’s able to do that job, we’ll be able [to] do some other things with him — move him around, let him catch the football.”
It’s apparent the franchise is going to give him opportunities to succeed in Vegas. Will he capitalize to close out training camp and going into his rookie season?