Why the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Is Playing Better Than During His MVP Season
MARYLAND; OWINGS MILLS Lamar Jackson, quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL leader in passing rating and touchdown passes, may look the same as he did when he won the league’s MVP award in 2019. The coaches and players on the Ravens, though, are aware of the truth. This season, Jackson is actually bringing his A-game. When it comes to his money, he is becoming more patient. He’s getting better results with his throws. He’s taking a more prominent role in leading the offence.
When Jackson and Baltimore’s unorthodox system tore through defences three years ago, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called it a “revolution.” In light of Jackson’s “transformation,” the Ravens have reclaimed their position as the NFL’s most exciting offence. According to Calais Campbell, a defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens, “you’re watching greatness” from your front row seats. Jackson, the second player in NFL history to win the MVP award unanimously, was aided by a stellar offensive line and a capable running back in Pro Bowl pick Mark Ingram. Even though Jackson has had three different left tackles guard his blindside so far this season, the Baltimore Ravens’ running backs have struggled through the first three games.
Jackson is ahead of his 2019 pace in nearly every major statistical category after accounting for 87% of the total yards for the league’s top scoring offence. Besides leading the league with 10 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 119.0, Jackson is also seventh in the league in rushing (with 243 yards) and first in rushing average (with 119.0 yards per game) (9.35). To win NFL MVP, Jackson’s odds have improved from 22 to 1, when he was ranked seventh, to 7, where he currently sits (tied for third-best with Jalen Hurts while Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are first and second). He’s really set on playing his way, according to Harbaugh. For him, it’s all about football victory. It was questioned if Jackson would come to regret exercising his fifth-year option, given that he would receive no guarantees about his salary beyond this season. Without a new deal, many feared he’d get disinterested or play it safe.
Jackson has reacted with laser-like intensity and ferocity, which has the potential to reshape the quarterback market and shatter previous records. In the NFL’s history, he is the first player to accomplish this feat (three touchdown passes and 100 yards rushing in consecutive games). Among the 31 clubs, he leads the league with 12 total touchdowns (2 on the ground) (the Detroit Lions have as many as him). When asked if he is proud of his groundbreaking work, Jackson replied, “I just want to win.” That way, I can focus on doing what I love—playing football for Lamar.
Hitting the bull’s-eye
Earlier in his career, Jackson would quickly escape pressure by leaving the pocket if no receivers were open. These days, he can get the ball in the end zone via the narrowest of openings. The NFL Next Gen Stats show that his Sunday touchdown ball to tight end Mark Andrews, who vaulted above Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, had a 13% chance of being completed. In Jackson’s career, that’s the fewest yards gained on a touchdown pass, and it’s the fewest yards gained on any touchdown pass in the NFL this season.
Later, near the back of the end zone, Jackson threw a 4-yard touchdown ball to wide receiver Devin Duvernay. As for Duvernay, she was able to keep her distance of 0.7 yards. Andrews remarked about Jackson, “He’s one of a kind.” No one else can provide the same value to a team as he does. So far this season, Jackson has a league-best three touchdown passes and zero interceptions when throwing into tight windows. When passing with less than a yard of separation last season, he had zero touchdowns and four interceptions. Jackson explained his role by saying, “I’m simply getting the ball to them.” I have complete faith in my team to come through with the play we need. If you want to give them a chance, do so. This is all we ever discuss.
‘Engine is bigger’
It was a mystery to everyone how much Jackson’s newfound girth would affect his performance. Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator for the Ravens, has said that Jackson could be speedier than expected since “his engine is greater.” No matter the cause, Jackson has managed to buck a worrying trend. Jackson’s carrying average has dropped from 6.9 yards per carry in 2019 to 6.3 yards per carry in 2020 to 5.8 yards per carry this upcoming season (2021). Only five of Jackson’s 133 carries last year gained 20 yards or more (3.7%). He’s been picking his spots to run this year, but when he does, he explodes. On just 26 attempts (11.5%), Jackson has broken loose for long gains of 79, 38, and 20 yards.
On Sunday, Jackson stated, “I promised you guys plenty of times I was going to be excellent, and I feel like I’m demonstrating it.” Jackson ran the longest route of his career two weeks ago, when he sped past the Dolphins for 79 yards and a touchdown. A 50-yard pass was his previous personal best. Jackson’s top speed of 20.48 mph on that run option put him in the top 15 among all ball carriers during the first two weeks of the season. Marlon Humphrey, a cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens, said of the man, “I think nobody can duplicate what the guy does day in and day out in the NFL.”
‘Not a lightbulb thing’
Many people have said that the NBA has finally figured out Jackson in each of the past two offseasons. Jackson’s season went downhill last year after he had trouble with the Dolphins’ Cover-Zero defence in November. In Week 10, the Ravens’ offence was restricted to 10 points by the Dolphins, the fewest of any game Jackson started for Baltimore. After that, teams began to blitz Jackson frequently, and the result was six interceptions and thirteen sacks in his final three complete games of 2021.
If you look at how easily Jackson is penetrating defences this season, you might get the impression that the pace of the game has slowed down for him. “According to Harbaugh, “I just believe it’s a natural next step in terms of finding his rhythm during the week, what he’s looking at, how he studies defences, and how he breaks defences down. “You don’t see quarterbacks suddenly have an epiphany; rather, you see them develop through a process of gradual study of the game.
He’s still a young quarterback, though” (25). Do you get the impression from seeing him play that he knows what he’s facing and how to handle it? That’s the outcome of the method he’s using and the hard work he’s putting in. What you’ve done is really remarkable. Jackson played exceptionally well in the Patriots’ 37-26 victory on Sunday. When facing the Patriots’ blitz, he completed 9 out of 10 passes for 110 yards and four touchdowns. Already this season, he has scored six touchdowns against the blitz, one more than he did in all of last year’s games.
Jackson, according to Harbaugh, is the offensive orchestrator. He’s in charge of keeping time and handling the checks. When asked if Jackson receives enough credit for leading the huddle, Harbaugh just shrugged his shoulders in response. “He said, “I’ve been trying to figure out the solution to that issue for four years.” “At each and every press conference, this is where I respond to the question. Every week, I basically repeat myself because what I say is always true. Yes, if there are still sceptics out there, I don’t know what to tell them. There’s nothing we can do for them now, I’m afraid.