The Baltimore Ravens have found their newest franchise quarterback for years to come in Lamar Jackson and were even to make a seamless transition from veteran Joe Flacco to his incumbent, who the team selected with the final pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft in the middle of the season.
Despite finishing the regular season with a 6-1 record as a starter, leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards on the year even though he didn’t make his first start until week 11 and is the only rookie quarterback of the five selected in the first round of last year’s draft to finish with a winning record, the so-called “experts” in the league are doubting Jackson ability to be productive going into next season.
The electrifying dual-threat quarterback busted onto the season for the Ravens last season in week 11 after being a bit of a curveball gadget player who can in on short yardage conversion situation before Flacco went down with a hip injury following a week nine bout with their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Once he was inserted into the line up following a week 10 bye, the Ravens offense completely changed from pass-happy formula into a ground and pound attack that improved their running game from the middle of the pack to second in the league by year’s end.
Even though Jackson received little to no work with the starting unit in training camp and the early part of the season, they were able to utilize his unique play breaking abilities to produce the best ball control offense in the league that dominated time of possession and kept the league’s top-ranked defense off the field and fresh down the stretch.
He was the catalyst that turned the Ravens season around after a 4-5 start with Flacco at the helm to dropping just one game over the final seven weeks of the season, with that only loss coming in a narrow 24-27 overtime defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in which league MVP Pat Mahomes put out one of his best performances of the year.
Although Jackson did not have to register enough passing attempts to be eligible to be counted among the league’s best and worst completion percentage among qualifying quarterbacks, his regular season completion percentage of 58.2 would’ve ranked him 31st in the NFL.
This mark was still better than three of the other quarterbacks selected before him in the top 10 of the draft, better Jets’ Sam Darnold’s 57.7, Cardinal’s Josh Rosen’s 55.2 and Bill’s Josh Allen. Only Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield, who Jackson beat in their only head to head match up of the season, had a better completion percentage than Jackson among rookies.
Some cite the fact that Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing yards with 695 despite only starting seven regular season games finished with the most rushing attempts for a quarterback in NFL history with 147 as the reason for skepticism that his style of play won’t pan out at the NFL level.
They doubt that he will be able to improve on his accuracy heading into next season and that his shortcomings as a passer will dissuade veteran receivers from considering Baltimore as a potential landing spot when free agency opens up in March.
Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who coached the team to their first Superbowl in franchise history in 2000, primarily questions Jackson’s ability to improve his overall efficiency that it includes accuracy, reading defenses and pocket presence.
“My concern is they are all in on a guy that wasn’t close to 60 percent completion. [Jackson] wasn’t a 60 percent completion guy in college. He averaged 20 rushes a game. You can’t do that in the NFL. He’s not going to last. It’s going to be boom or bust. He’s either going to make that transition or I’m not sure,” said Billick.
As all these questions are being asked and “flaws” being pointed out about Lamar are starting to pile up even though he lead the Ravens second half surge ending a three-year playoff hiatus and secured their first division crown since 2012 when they won the Superbowl, where are these same questions and doubts about the white quarterbacks that were selected before him and didn’t accomplish nearly as much or played half as well as Jackson with more starting experience.
In the case of the Buffalo’s Josh Allen, he finished with 631 yards rushing on the year which was a mere 64 yards less than Jackson, no one is labeling him just a” phenomenal athlete that can kind of throw” as Billick and many others view Lamar.
Jackson did more for and with his team in eight games as a starter, including the playoffs than any of the rookie quarterbacks did for theirs. He accomplished more in his limited half-season sample size than all the other quarterbacks selected before him who each started at least 12 games.
Mayfield and the Browns are the hottest team heading into the offseason and will be the buzz around the league come this fall. Some have even predicted that Cleveland would even win the division crown next season despite the fact that Jackson and the Ravens ran rough shot all over their defense for nearly 300 yards.
This appears to be yet another example of these so-called experts and prognosticators to cast aspersions upon a young African American quarterback that possess unique athletic capabilities before he is even given a full offseason, let alone a full regular season to develop chemistry with his receivers and refine his craft while all the white quarterbacks that were taken before him are being lauded and applauded for doing less with more opportunities per usual.