By Chris Schisler
Lamar Jackson is such an important player for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s lifted the offense up for the first three weeks of the season. Statistically, it’s been a mixed bag. Jackson has as many total turnovers as he does total touchdowns. The turnovers can easily distract you from the amazing things he’s done to start this season.
Jackson looks like a different passer in the 2021 season. He’s throwing the ball more. His yards per attempt has shot up as well, all the way up to 8.8. The Ravens are seeing a more aggressive Jackson in the air. At this point last season, Jackson had 576 yards passing. This year he’s at 761 yards.
Crazy totals for Lamar Jackson
Jackson has had some horrible mistakes that mute the change to this offense. He had two fumbles that sunk the Ravens in the season opener against the Raiders. He had a horrible interception into trople coverage against the Chiefs, and he almost tossed the game away in Detroit. These plays help Jackson’s critics and allow people to be distracted by the negatives.
Against the Raiders Jackson was the only reason the team was in the game. Jackson had 235 yards in the air and 86 on the ground. 321 total yards is a solid day for any quarterback espescially when the offensive line is getting rocked and the running game has some hitches to work out.
In the Chiefs game Jackson had 239 passing yards and 107 rushing yards. That’s 346 total yards. That’s a huge game and it helped deliver a comeback victory for the ages. Against the Lions, Jackson had 287 yards passing and 58 yards rushing. That’s 345 yards of total offense that the MVP quarterback generated. It’s hard to fathom how big Jackson’s numbers could have been without a handful of costly drops in Detroit.
Jackson has put up 1,012 total yards this season. That’s a three game average of 335 yards per game. If Jackson cleans up the mistakes and keeps producing at this rate, it could be the most prolific season a quarterback has ever had. The combination of passing and rushing yards has been wowing. Jackson is on pace to have his best year and he was the unanimous 2019 NFL MVP.
Being the hero:
The positives far outweigh the negatives, and Jackson can clean up his ball security. Jackson has 71 career touchdowns and 21 career interceptions. He has never thrown for more than nine picks in a season. Jackson gets a lot of flack for his propensity to turn the ball over. He”s made costly mistakes in the first three games. While that can’t be ignored, his track record should calm you down a bit. The rate at which his turnovers come should slow down.
Jackson has had virtually no help from the offensive line in two out of three games. His running back rotation is completley new, with most of the backs past their prime and just happy to extend their NFL career. In the game agaisnt Detroit drops crushed the Ravens chance for a blowout. Jackson had to go into Superman mode. Jackson passed the ball 31 times. You’ll see few examples of a quarterback slingling that many dimes and walking away with that little of a reward on the scoreboard and in the box score.
The thing that amazes me about this season isn’t how much the Ravens have put on to the shoulders of their quarterback, but how their quarterback is dealing with that kind of a workload. Jackson never seems to let anything get to him. He doesn’t seem to be rattled and when he makes a mistake he doesn’t recoil into a game manager. More importantly, when he makes a mistake Greg Roman doesn’t recoil as a play-caller.
Pushing the limits:
It’s almost as if the Ravens know they need every little bit out of Jackson. They’re essentially saying as a coaching staff that Jackson has free reign to push the boundaries of his performance as much as possible. The Ravens offense does have a better design in the pass game (Kieth Williams presence is felt). Scheme isn’t doing all this though, Jackson is. The MVP quarterback is playing free of fear and limits. Basically, he’s Neo in the Matrix and he understands that “There is no spoon.”
Jackson now has to keep playing with this spirit- this obvious attack mode and add some polish and control. Continuing the Matrix comparrison, the Chiefs game was his Subway batlte with the agent- he’s figured it out but is just starting to scratch the surface of his full potential. He can beat anyone now. He knows it, the world knows it.
You can see it:
The types of throws Jackson is throwing give the biggest sign of his improvement. There’s more to the outside. The passing game features more shots down the field, while his passes seem to zip right in there. The days of Jackson being critiqued for his shortcomings as a passer should be fading away. He’s shown he can make all the throws.
The true mark of Jackson’s progress is that this doesn’t seem forced. The Ravens were essentially forced to throw the ball 31 times agains tthe Lions. The Ravens are averaging 29 passing attempts per game and it doesn’t seem like a unfair ask of the passing game. It’s not a stretch too far out of Baltimore’s offensive comfort zone. Remember, the Ravens were the team with the fewest passing attempts per season last year.
When we left last season we were asking if the Ravens could do better in the passing game. What we really needed to see was more volume, because the efficiency was already there.
If you’re watching the game you can tell that there is a difference. We’ve talked a lot about the numbers. In some key ways their up and there are some stats you can cherry pick to rebut those statistical gains. The stats aren’t the argument though.
Jackson has always done things as a runner at the quarteback position that we’ve never seen before. His pop passes against the Chiefs- one which really went down the field as a real shot play- was something I haven’t seen from anybody. I haven’t seen that from Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Patrick Mahomes. As a long-time defender of Jackson’s arm talent, I can stop beating the drum. The arm talent of Lamar Jackson is undeniable at this point.
The Bottom Line:
The Ravens are 2-1 and each game has been an absolute battle. The one game in which Jackson got help from his offensive line and his pass-catchers was the amazing week 2 win against the Chiefs. Things aren’t going overwhelmingly well. Offensively, Jackson is the entire show at this point. He’s the enzyme that creates all good things for the unit.
NEXT POST: Justin Tucker saves Baltimore Ravens win: Good, bad and the ugly
If some frustrating mistakes is the cost of Jackson figuring out how to play to his full potential, Ravens fans should take it. That’s a fair deal. Jackson has shown evidence that he can carry the team on his back in the air and on the ground. The best dual-threat quarterback in NFL history could be on his way to being the best quarterback in the league right now. The sky is the limit and Jackson is figuring out how to avoid anything holding him back.