Lamar Jackson Gives the Ravens the Best Chance to Win Going Forward
(Do people really like the Grimace uniform combo?)
The Ravens are 6-5 after two straight wins that were badly needed with their playoff chances hanging on the razors edge. This after sitting with a 4-5 record following a loss at home to the Steelers three weeks ago. The last game that Joe Flacco started.
Reports surfaced six days after that game that Joe Flacco had injured his hip that day in the first quarter, and he has been sidelined for the last two games following the bye week.
Enter rookie Lamar Jackson. He quite literally, “ran” the offense in his first career win against the Bengals. After talk all week about needing to be a “pocket passer” to win in this league, he ran just once in the first half against Oakland. But then the offense beat feet the rest of the day after a much needed halftime adjustment.
Lamar Jackson is now 2-0. The Ravens are 6-5. They are the #6 seed if the playoffs started today.
Jackson certainly falls into the small sample size category when asking the question, who gives you the better chance to win going forward? But a small sample size also lends a lot to the unknown. The untapped potential. The ceiling is higher. But the floor could be lower. With Joe Flacco and his 11 years of service, and his repertoire with Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, it is very much known what a Joe Flacco game will look like. The ceiling is lower, but the floor could be higher, could be a safer play.
Today, Joe Flacco saw a specialist to determine whether he could return to practice this week which would place the Ravens squarely in the middle of a full on quarterback controversy. To which John Harbuagh responded quite clearly…
“We’ll do what gives us the best chance to win. Period. End of conversation.”
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No more beating around the bush. I’m on Team Jackson as long as he keeps doing what has done for two games now. He should retain the starters role even with a healthy Flacco. I’m going to debunk a few theories that have been tossed around of late to show you why.
Joe Flacco is a vested veteran who has earned the right to retain his starting job when healthy.
No. In recent years better quarterbacks than Flacco, such as Tony Romo and Alex Smith, lost their jobs to up and coming guys who took hold of the opportunity they were given. Dak Prescott essentially retired Romo who missed most of the season with a back injury, but did not return in Dallas when healthy as the season began winding down. Colin Kaepernick essentially forced Alex Smith out of San Francisco when he led them to a Super Bowl while a healthy Smith watched the second half of the 2012 season from the bench. If Flacco catches on somewhere else, best of luck to him, as long as it’s not in the AFC North.
You have to be a pocket passer to win consistently in the NFL.
No. You have to be an accurate passer to sustain winning in the NFL. Lamar Jackson is accurate enough so far. His completion percentage is 60.7% while Flacco’s is 61.2%. It’s not like Flacco is a whole 10% better which leads to a game changing amount of completions. Also consider that when Cam Newton won league MVP and led the Panthers to a 15-1 record, NFC title, runner up in Super Bowl 50, he completed 59.8% of his passes. 58.2% in his three playoff games that year as well. He also rushed 132 times in the regular season, the most he had in any season up to that point. If anything Joe Flacco has not won consistently for five plus seasons now.
Jackson can’t run the ball this often and remain healthy.
We don’t know that. Flacco runs the ball zero times and he is on the sidelines. Injuries are unpredictable, fluke, freak occurrences. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is almost as big a guy as Flacco and ran 11 times (two kneel downs) for 99 yards yesterday. Jackson ran nine times (two kneel downs) for 71. No one is telling Josh Allen to pump the brakes. Sure, 24 times the week prior for Jackson is excessive. Unreal to do that for 16 straight games. But it’s also how many hits you take more than how much you run. How many of his runs did he go out of bounds? How many did he give himself up? Add in the hits he takes while being a pocket passer, the times he sneaks into the pile on inches or one-yard to go. How much abuse is Jackson really taking? I’ll tell you, cause I watched the tape and counted. He was hit a total of 17 times against the Bengals. He was hit just five times against the Raiders. 17 is a lot. But it’s not unheard of for an aggressive defense to hit an opposing QB 17 times in the pocket. The Denver defense that won a Super Bowl a couple years back hit Tom Brady 20 times in the AFC title game in order to advance. Consider when Jackson is a runner, he is better able to brace himself for hits. He’s not getting blindsided or anything.
Jackson needs to develop better mechanics before he can really be counted on.
Can you ask a tiger to change his stripes? Mechanics are one of those things that are little over blown in my opinion. Yes, the side arm release at times will make the ball sail, less velocity on throws. But he also does it so the ball comes out on a different line then the one his body is on when he wants to get rid of it quick. He did this against the Bengals on a particular play in the 3rd quarter. The throwing lane he wanted to throw it through required a different arm angle rather than right over the top. The pass was slightly behind Chris Moore, but still away from the defender. I look at the taller, mechanically sound Joe Flacco and wonder, why he has four passes a game batted down by defensive lineman? Why he over or under throws receivers badly at times. Peyton Manning had footwork you would never ever teach a developing quarterback to have. But he turned out ok. Like a professional golf swing, baseball pitchers deliveries, batters swings, basketball player free throw shooters, every single motion is different. As long as you get from point A to point B, how you get there doesn’t matter if it works for you. Mechanics aside, Jackson is hitting wide open receivers, and yesterday was hitting them deep down field. His tape from Louisville showed off his deep ball accuracy at times. He had the 74 yard one to Mark Andrews, and in the fourth quarter had another long bomb caught by John Brown, but called back on a holding penalty. His little shovel pass to Hayden Hurst yesterday, throwing side arm passes here and there, maybe it’s improvisational rather than inconsistency.
You won’t be able to keep up with the upcoming Falcons and Chiefs offenses with a ground attack.
Actually, a ground and pound attack is exactly how you limit the playmaking talent of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, etc… While you are going on 15 play, eight minute drives, the oppositions playmakers are on the bench watching their defensive counterparts suck wind. Julio Jones is an amazing talent. Pat Mahomes and Tyreek Hill are electrifying players. I’ve yet to see either score six points while sitting on the bench. Atlanta scores 2.64 points per drive. Kansas City scores 3.33 points per drive. If you have an inefficient offense, three and outs a plenty, that is more drives for the explosive offenses against you. Let them on the field 15 times and that’s how you allow 40+ points to get scored on you. Let them on the field eight times and that’s how you limit them to 20-27 points, an amount you can hang around with them and maybe even beat them. Furthermore, in all of the Ravens six wins, they won the time of possession battle. In all of their five losses, they lost the time of possession battle. Hold the ball more than the other team, limit the points they can score, keeps your defense rested late in the game, that’s how you win these two tough road battles coming up. The Ravens first road games in over a month. Road games are where the Ravens and particularly Joe Flacco struggle most. All six of Flacco’s interceptions this year have also come on the road. Zero at home.
Joe Flacco was nothing special before the injury. He and Marty Mornhinweg get pass happy and inefficient. Lamar Jackson is about as accurate as Flacco but more efficient when you combine the ways he can gain yards rather than the one dimensional Flacco. Jackson is healthy, young, so ride that youthful energy as long as you can. Jackson won’t be beaten up for a season. Just for five more games and then hopefully some more, then Jackson gets six months off without taking a beating from defenses to rest. Besides, he got hit less yesterday, while efficiently running, than most pocket quarterbacks did league wide. Mechanics are easy to point to when things are going bad, but the results matter more than the looks. Jackson is giving you results. Joe Flacco won’t enjoy handing the ball off 30 times a game. Gus Edwards might not give you the same output (back to back 100+ yard games) with Flacco out there versus Jackson, who defenses have to account for as well. I fear the Marty Mornhinweg/Joe Flacco connection will resort back to their old ways of throwing the ball 40+ times a game inefficiently, putting opposing teams playmakers on the field more often resulting ultimately in losses for the Ravens. Losses they can’t afford if they hope to keep the division in play (1.5 games back) and keep their ever so slight edge for the second wild card spot.
The job should be Jacksons until both, he has a real stinker of a game and Flacco is also 100% healthy. Hot hand is the way to go here.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]