Sun. Dec 9th, 2018

Lamar Jackson Bursts onto the Scene!

Coming out of Louisville, many scouts thought that Lamar Jackson should switch positions on account of his elite athleticism. However, Jackson decided to stick with the quarterback position, and his persistence allowed him to be drafted number 32 overall by the Baltimore Ravens.

With (former?) starting quarterback Joe Flacco injured and the Ravens on a three game losing skid, the Ravens needed a spark. 2 Sundays ago, the Ravens got just that due to Lamar Jackson and a rejuvenated rushing attack. Baltimore sprinked Lamar into their lack luster offense throughout the first half of their season and got some mediocre production out of him. However, when he got to take the reigns as the starting QB, he took that opportunity and excelled.

The first drive for the Ravens  against Cincinnati resulted in 46 rush yards for Lamar and an early Ravens touchdown. Lamar did not have to throw a pass on that drive against the NFL’s worst statistical defense in the Bengals. However, to win in a passing league like the NFL, you need to be able to throw the football. Albeit passing sparingly, Lamar made the throws when he needed to in route to going 13-19 for 150 yards for the day. Most impressive was his ability to escape pressure as he avoided sacks all day while additionally rushing for 119 yards. 119 yards is almost double the previous QB rushing record for the Baltimore Ravens franchise. Lamar made one rookie mistake by throwing an interception. Nevertheless, he was able to overcome the mistake and lead the Ravens back from an eight point deficit to win the game 24-21. With that big win, the Ravens increased their record to 5-5 and moved up to the all important second wildcard spot in the AFC playoff picture.

In the following week, the Ravens were up against the 2-8 Oakland Raiders. Things started very shaky for Lamar Jackson on paper. He had 2 interceptions that were eye popping on the stat sheet. However, each of those interceptions came from tipped passes. Moreover, the Ravens game plan seemed to be a response to critics that said he could not pass. The Raiders have one of the leagues worst rush defenses, so it left them vulnerable to be taken advantage of. When the Ravens let Lamar play his style of game, they were able to look the best that they could on offense. Lamar made some solid throws with his best being a 74 yard deep ball to his fellow rookie, Mark Andrews. After producing no offensive touchdowns in the first half, Lamar was able to lead the Ravens to two key touchdown drives (one being capped off by a 5 yard run by Jackson, and the other being an 8 yard pass from Jackson to Michael Crabtree) that helped Baltimore pull away from Oakland in a 34-17 win. Lamar Jackson finished the day going 14/25 for 178 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 71 yards on 11 carries. The victory moved the Ravens to 6-5 and allowed them to retain their possession as the second wildcard team in the AFC. With the win, Baltimore’s chance at making the playoffs has increased to 43 percent.

With a 6-5 record, the Ravens are in the AFC playoff mix with the Colts, Titans, Dolphins, Bengals, Browns, and Dolphins, but the Ravens currently own the tiebreaker over the other teams. If the team wants to continue their playoff push, they will have to decide whether to continue with the rookie, Lamar Jackson, or the veteran, Joe Flacco. Lamar gives their offense a new dimension that can take them to a new level, but Flacco gives the Ravens a quarterback who has won big games in the past and has been in every situation imaginable. The Ravens can procrastinate on that decision for another week as Flacco is not expected to practice this week. This, in turn, means Lamar is projected to start this week against the Falcons in the battle of the birds. When the Ravens hit the road to face the Chiefs in two weeks, they will have to finally make that inevitable decision, which could be the difference between their first playoff birth in three years or could lead to the firing of a fairly successful coach.

The future of the NFL is now, and many young QB’s have risen to the forefront. For example, Patrick Mahomes of the 9-2 Chiefs, Jared Goff of the 10-1 Rams, and Deshaun Watson of the 8-3 Texans have all led their teams to excellent seasons so far. Will Lamar Jackson be the next young quarterback to rise to the spotlight? He looks to be on that very path early in his career.

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