Lamar Jackson is proving to be a generational talent and not just a flash in the pan many pegged him to be for the Baltimore Ravens.
I know less about gymnastics than I do quantum physics — and I had to Google “quantum physics” just to see how to spell it. So believe me when I tell you that I do not understand how the sport is judged, I have no technical expertise and there is no way I could participate in a conversation about it without letting the cat out of the bag that I am an insipid moron. But when I saw Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympics, I knew she was special. It was instantly evident that she was breathtaking, and explosive and unique. And I knew I was witnessing a human being doing things that my mind had previously not comprehended were really possible. Lamar Jackson is that same kind of athlete. He’s simply different than the typical quarterback prospect to take over a team.
Oh, there have been mobile, and even electric, quarterbacks before, but not like this. Consider that Lamar Jackson is on pace to run for the most yards in a season for a quarterback, and he’s averaging 6.6 yards per carry, despite each team’s defense focusing on stopping him. He is fast, and decisive and makes ridiculous cuts to get upfield.
You know what? Forget about all that and just watch this unbelievable run for the ages.
And we have seen plenty of young quarterbacks attack their craft with a fervor, developing their passing skills from one year to the next, but his growth has been truly stunning. Lamar Jackson’s completion percentage has jumped from 58.2% last season to 65.9% this year. His yards per attempt have gone from 7.0 to 8.3 and his rating has exploded from 84.5 to 101.7.
That’s taking a big hit, standing tall and throwing his guy open in the end zone for six. That’s being a pocket passer, plain and simple. Yeah, he has that club in his bag, too.
What we are seeing, game to game, quarter to quarter, snap to snap, is what happens when a physical specimen that is basically without peer has an equal amount of work ethic and pride in his craft to continue to improve. Lamar Jackson appears to have his eyes set on a larger prize than most aspire — he appears to be on a quest to become legendary.
He has the tools. He has the desire. But we’ve seen plenty of hard-working, talented players not have a lasting impact on the game. Is he just a little more skilled than others? Sure. Does he maybe work that much harder than others? Maybe. Looking at his changed physique this season, as well as his improved footwork, he sure looks like he worked plenty hard on improving his game.
But I think the thing that makes it all come together for him, and has contributed the most to this accelerated growth, is his intelligence — specifically his innate ability to process information quickly and make sound decisions while the proverbial “bullets are flying.”
There are very few times Lamar Jackson makes a decision that causes you to cringe. He might miss a pass now and then, or cut back upfield on a run when you think he’s taking safe passage to the sidelines, but he usually makes the right read. He puts his team in a good position nearly every play of every game, and that allows the players to compete without being at an instant disadvantage. At that point, you let your athletes be athletes. That is how you become 7-2.
“He’s impressive, very instinctive and smart,” said Houston Texans Coach Bill O’Brien, whose team is tasked with facing Lamar Jackson next Sunday. “He has great command of their offense. He’s very competitive and he can do it all. He’s a great runner and a great thrower. He’s an MVP candidate for a reason.”
Ravens fans have been somewhat spoiled over the team’s relatively-short period of existence — two Super Bowl titles, Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, a nation-grabbing rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers, just for starters. Well, now we get a new treat for our fandom eyes.
The Lamar Jackson era is now firmly upon us. There’s no telling where it will eventually lead, but it’s safe to say it will be a jaw-dropping ride. And you don’t have to be an expert in quantum physics or even football to recognize that.