Why the Lamar Jackson show will always be ahead of NFL Defenses

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 11: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens hands the ball off to Mark Ingram #21 against the Tennessee Titans during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 11: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens hands the ball off to Mark Ingram #21 against the Tennessee Titans during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Last year the NFL didn’t offer a lot of good ways to beat Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. That’s not going to change:

You may be thinking that Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens got figured out by the Tennessee Titans. The thing is that we didn’t learn anything in that game. Sure, Jackson probably shouldn’t drop back to pass over 70 times in a game. We already knew that. The Titans brought their A game while the Ravens brought a crippling pressure on themselves that resulted in a 14-2 team embarrassing themselves. That’s what happened.

What didn’t happen was a switch going off that made the NFL all the sudden know how to deal with the 2019 MVP. When the Ravens lost to the Browns, people thought it was an exposing loss. So Baltimore won 12 games in a row and won the number one seed by running up the score on almost everybody.

The Ravens will always be ahead of the rest of the league. The Ravens set out to start a revolutionary offense. Greg Roman wasn’t tasked with building a fad. He was asked to call an offense that would truly be different than any offense the NFL has ever seen. Lamar Jackson is different than any quarterback you have ever seen and the Ravens knew it before he was scoring five touchdowns on Monday Night Football.

The Ravens run a bunch of their offense with Jackson in the pistol formation. The way their run game is designed it creates a mesh point in the backfield which will always create hesitation and fear that Jackson is going to get them again. No team in the NFL has more confidence in the running game than the Ravens. As long as the Ravens stay true to the fundamentals of their identity (and in no circumstance have Jackson drop back 70 plus times) they should get the results they’re looking for.

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It is true that taking away the running game, particularly that of Jackson, is the best way to slow the Ravens down. Committing to the run game, putting a spy on Jackson and playing gap sound defense is a very good idea when you play the Ravens. Most of that however is a good idea against any opponent. Here’s the thing. Jackson can throw the football.

Jackson beat the Miami Dolphins senselessly while barely running. He had five touchdowns in the air against the Dolphins, the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams. Jackson had two games with a perfect passer rating. He completed over 66 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 113.3 for the season. Jackson’s arm is seriously good, so stopping him on the ground doesn’t stop the offense.

Jackson isn’t a quarterback who makes a ton of mistakes. He only had six interceptions in the 2019 season. Jackson reads defenses fairly well for a young quarterback and has an awesome football IQ. Blitzing him doesn’t work. First of all, he can get out of almost any trouble behind the line of scrimmage, and comes up with some ridiculous throws on the move. Secondly, Jackson does well under pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson scored more against the blitz than any quarterback last season.

So you can’t blitz Jackson the same way you can most quarterbacks. You can’t play too much man to man coverage because the defenders will turn their backs to the quarterback (the fastest quarterback). You can’t play too much zone because Jackson will pick you apart and Mark Andrews is a master of finding the open window. And that brings me to the most important point. It’s not just about the MVP.

Jackson has a lot of help on this offense. He has a receiver that is probably faster than he is in Marquise Brown. Andrews is an elite tight end. Ronnie Stanley leads an offensive line that should be strong in the 2020 season, even without Marshal Yanda. Mark Ingram leads an awesome group of running backs that now includes J.K. Dobbins.

One change the Ravens made this offseason was adding speed at the wide receiver position. Marquise Brown isn’t the only receiver who can do damage after the catch now. Devin Duvernay specialized in this in his career with the Texas Longhorns. While it’s a young receiving group, you can see what the Ravens may be thinking. More speed is the best way to get the job done.

Leading the NFL in yards after the catch could be the best answer to teams over commiting to stopping the run. If the Ravens can run for well over four yards per carry and can also beat you with the short passing game, and they can do it out of the same look, stopping the Ravens is going to be a brutal task.

If Jackson can beat teams before the snap the way that Tom Brady does by using the hot route to get the ball out quick, it adds another element for teams to worry about. That’s the logical next step for Jackson and the Ravens. They need the passing game to be self sufficient when the run game just isn’t brewing the typical strong cup of let’s roll that they are accustomed to.

Jackson is such a hard working quarterback that he will continue to evolve. Roman is such a creative offensive coordinator that he will build many elements on top of what his unit has already mastered. The Ravens had a strong new take on offensive football in the 2019 season. Now they get to build on that.

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The Ravens might be even better at running the football in the 2020 season. The Ravens have more play-making ability at the wide receiver position and Marquise Brown could be primed for a huge season. Jackson is arguably the best play-maker in the entire league. and his play-caller is inventive. The Ravens will continue to be ahead of defensive coordinators in the 2020 season. Defenses may never catch up to the Lamar Jackson show.