How the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is better than his NFL MVP season – Baltimore Ravens Blog

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some might say that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who leads the NFL in passer rating and TD passes, looks the same as he did in his 2019 MVP season.

But Raven’s coaches and teammates know otherwise. Jackson is actually playing at a much higher level this season.

He shows more patience in the pocket. He delivers the ball with more accuracy. He commands the offensive with more authority.

Three years ago, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called it a “revolution” when Jackson and Baltimore’s unconventional offense broke through defense. Now, due to Jackson’s “evolution,” the Ravens are once again the NFL’s most electrifying attack.

“It’s a front-row seat; They see greatness,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said.

When Jackson became the second unanimous NFL MVP selection, he played behind one of the best offensive lines and handed the ball to Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram. In three games this year, it didn’t matter that Jackson had protected his blindside with three different left tackles and Baltimore’s running backs were struggling.

Jackson has churned out 87% of the total yards for the league’s No. 1 goalscorer, putting him ahead of his 2019 pace in almost every major statistical category. Aside from the league-leading 10 TD passes and a 119.0 passer rating, Jackson ranks fifth in the league for rushing (243 yards) and first for rushing average (9.35).

Jackson’s odds of winning the NFL MVP have increased from 22-to-1 in February (eighth-best odds) to 7-to-1 (third-best odds with Jalen Hurts, while Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are first and second respectively).

“He’s kind of determined to go his own way,” Harbaugh said. “His path is to win football.”

Some wondered if Jackson would regret playing his fifth-year option with no guaranteed money beyond that season. Others thought he would get distracted or play a more conservative style in the absence of a contract extension.

Jackson has responded with a focus and ferocity that could ultimately reset the quarterback market and rewrite the record books. He is the first player in NFL history to deliver back-to-back games with at least three touchdown passes and 100-yard rushing.

His 12 total touchdowns (two rushings) are more than 30 of the other 31 teams (the Detroit Lions have as many as him).

When asked if he was proud of these unprecedented achievements, Jackson said, “I just want to win. It just makes me have to do what I do – play Lamar football.”

direct hit

Early in his career, Jackson would lock the bag when no receivers were open or when he felt immediate pressure. These days he hits his targets in the end zone through the smallest window.

His 16-yard touchdown pass Sunday to tight end Mark Andrews, which jumped over Patriots safety Devin McCourty, had a 13% completion probability, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s the lowest of all Jackson’s career completions and the lowest of all NFL touchdown passes this season.

Jackson later connected with wide receiver Devin Duvernay on a 4-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. Duvernay was 0.7 yards ahead.

“He’s one of a kind,” Andrews said of Jackson. “There is nobody who is really capable of doing what he can do for a team.”

Jackson has thrown the league’s best three touchdown passes this season and no interceptions when throwing into narrow windows. This is a big improvement from last season, when he had no touchdowns and four interceptions while passing under a yard.

“I just bring them the ball, that’s all,” Jackson said. “I feel like my boys are 100% confident they’re going to make this game. Just give them a chance. That’s all we’re talking about.”

“engine is bigger”

No one really knew the effects of Jackson adding over 10 pounds of muscle and bulking up to 230 pounds. Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman suggested Jackson could be faster because “his engine is bigger.”

Whatever the reason, Jackson was able to reverse a worrying trend. Over the past few seasons, Jackson’s rushing average has dropped from 6.9 yards per carry (2019) to 6.3 (2020) to 5.8 (2021).

Last season, only five of Jackson’s 133 carries went for 20 yards (3.7%). This year he was more selective in running but he was a lot more explosive. Jackson has had three total carries of 20 or more-plus yards on 26 carries (11.5%) and freed himself for gains of 79, 38, and 20 yards.

“I’ve told you guys many times I’m going to be good,” Jackson said of the extra pounds on Sunday, “and I feel like I’m showing it.”

Two weeks ago, Jackson posted the longest run of his career when he sped past the Dolphins for a 79-yard touchdown. His previous best was 50 yards.

Using this running option, Jackson hit a top speed of 20.48 miles per hour, which ranked among the 15 fastest times of any ball carrier in the first two weeks of the season.

“I don’t think anyone in the league can replicate what this guy does on a day-to-day basis,” said Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

“Not a Lightbulb Thing”

In each of the last two offseasons, there’s been talk of the league finally figuring out Jackson.

Last November, Jackson’s season went down after battling the Dolphins’ cover-zero program. The Ravens were held to 10 points in Week 10 in Miami, the fewest ever with Jackson as a starter. Teams blitzed Jackson heavily thereafter, resulting in six interceptions and 13 sacks in his last three full games of 2021.

Watching Jackson dissect defense this year, it looks like the game has slowed down for him.

“I just think it’s a natural next step to find his rhythm throughout the week, what he’s looking at, how he’s studying defense, how he’s breaking down defense,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not a lightbulb thing, it’s an evolution of study the game that you see quarterbacks go through.

“He’s still a young quarterback (25). You watch him play, does it seem like he understands what he’s up against and what he’s dealing with out there? This is the result of this process and the work it puts in. It’s really impressive.”

Jackson excelled under pressure in Sunday’s 37-26 win in New England. He was 9-of-10 for 110 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots’ Blitz. He has six touchdowns against the Blitz, which is already one more than all of last season.

Harbaugh gushed about how Jackson offensively runs the show. He makes the checks and manages the clock.

When asked if Jackson gets enough credit for commanding the huddle, Harbaugh essentially shrugged.

“I’ve been trying to answer that question for four years now,” he said. “I answer them here every time we have a press conference. I’m basically saying the same thing because it’s true every week. Yeah, if there are people out there who doubt that at this point, I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t think we can help them at this point.”

https://www.espn.com/blog/baltimore-ravens/post/_/id/56259/why-the-ravens-lamar-jackson-is-playing-better-than-during-his-mvp-season How the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is better than his NFL MVP season – Baltimore Ravens Blog

Emma Bowman

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