Last year the Baltimore Ravens took the NFL by storm. Great defense (not surprising-that’s Baltimore’s staple for years), and a great rushing attack. But now a passing game (when needed) that is effective enough to really add that dimension of a whole new scary.
The Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in 2018 after teams worried he wouldn’t be a legit passing quarterback. Some thought Baltimore wasted the pick. In two seasons, Jackson however has helped guide the Ravens to two division championships with the latter being a 14-2 season, best record in the NFL, and an MVP to his credit.
The numbers are impressive that Jackson has put out on his MVP year: 1,200 rushing yards, 3,100 passing yards, 43 total TD’s (bear in mind he played 15 of 16 games). It wasn’t ANY doubt Jackson was deserving of taking home the trophy. Adding on, he makes smart decisions with the ball and is a very accurate passer.
But there has been one tiny problem with Jackson to this point. He’s 0-2 in playoff games.
I think we all gave Jackson a free pass in his rookie year because well, it was his rookie year and the Chargers had a pretty good team. But last year people were stunned that not only the Ravens lost at home to a Titans team that was labeled as one-dimensional on offense, but were smacked silly by Tennessee. And Jackson looked anything but an MVP quarterback (3 turnovers, sacked 4 times).
Now it may be premature to think that in year three Lamar Jackson is in a make-or-break year. I don’t think he is in THAT category. But most of the time the mobile quarterbacks do not have prolonged careers without adapting (McNabb comes to mind as an example of becoming more passing oriented later on) and Jackson is definitely a true dual threat QB. However, do I think that the next season Lamar Jackson is very important? Yes.
I mentioned after the 2015 season that Cam Newton’s biggest season had to have been 2016. He was licking his chops after the Super Bowl loss to Denver and how he handled the loss (though many viewed him as a childish brat after all the antics he done when he was winning). I thought “maybe he will be more driven” to succeed in 2016. Instead he went out and spoke that how he was zeroed in on…..a new dance in 2016 whenever he would score a touchdown. Compiling on was that Cam was starting to get dinged up including a concussion he suffered early against the Falcons as he looked like he was about to high step in after a 2-point conversion and later on getting benched in the first series against Seattle for whatever team rule he violated and just performed on a mediocre level in 2016. The next 3 seasons where hit or miss (mostly miss) when he was on the field and had battled injury after injury to the point now teams are shying away on Cam as a starting QB.
But we are talking about Lamar Jackson here, not Cam Newton. And Lamar Jackson has proven he is no Cam Newton.
Jackson is one of my favorite players in the NFL. He can do things not many people can do on that field, but he is also soft-spoken and lets players around him get the love. But also what I give him mad respect for is how he is always improving his game and WANTING to improve. When Jackson won the Heisman at Louisville, many believed he didn’t deserve to win because of A. Deshaun Watson and B. He was a running only QB who couldn’t pass. The next year Jackson’s numbers were similar but had been more prevalent in the passing game and could have ended up with another Heisman Trophy had Louisville not been a mediocre squad in 2017. So for Jackson to keep improving on all aspects of the game CANNOT be overstated. He does.
But again we are back to Jackson possibly having detractors. I mentioned that the one concern I had about the Ravens getting the Lombardi Trophy was that they hadn’t dealt with adversity (i.e. trailing much in games) and the times they did, the Ravens ended up losing those games to both the Chiefs and Browns. Jackson had challenges when he was forced to pass and expected to pass. The Titans jumped on Baltimore early and often and you could tell at times Jackson was not comfortable all the time being and staying in that pocket. He possibly put TOO much pressure on himself to do well.
So now Jackson will have to answer questions of being a quarterback that can thrive under pressure a la Brady, Rodgers, and now Mahomes. To me, the upcoming season for the Ravens will be one that if Jackson builds off of that he will be a monster. That is the next step in his progression will be a comeback QB if the manner presents itself to him.
Baltimore has to be considered one of the front-runners and probably my “way too early Super Bowl pick” but if Jackson doesn’t take that next step it could be an opportunity missed and sometimes what seems like is a large window will close very quickly.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat