How do you stop Lamar Jackson?
@cancelpennies asks: If you were an opposing defensive coordinator, what’s one major adjustment you would make in 2020 vs the way teams handled him in 2019? i.e blitz more/less, utilize a spy more/less etc.
Answer: There isn’t a lot you can do that works when you’re going against Lamar Jackson which makes this a fun question to think about. Let’s get what I wouldn’t do out of the way, the options that remain will form my game-plan. According to PFF Jackson was the best quarterback against the blitz. Not only does he beat the blitz with his arm, too much blitzing encourages him to improvise and that’s where he’s really scary. I’m still blitzing, but I’m not going crazy.
I want speed on the field. As long as I have a big nickel package that I can tackle and get gap sound defense out of, that’s my base defense for the game.
The one type of blitz I think works the best are A gap blitzes which can disrupt the mesh point in the backfield. If the defense can knock off the timing and showmanship that goes on in the backfield, it will take away the Ravens’ favorite chess piece. This will probably lead to Jackson keeping the ball and running outside more. With the extra speed on the field he shouldn’t always win to the edge.
I will coach my defense that if you think he’s going to run you can’t hesitate; just go get him and hope for the best. Jackson takes advantage of players caught in between chasing him or playing coverage underneath. He’s great at getting you in a bad spot and making the right call at the last possible second. My players would have to go full speed without hesitation so I have no problem taking the choice away from them. More often than not it will be the right call.
I’m not putting a quarterback spy on him. The whole defense is going to get sucked into diagnosing what happens at the mesh point no matter what I call in the sky box. I also doubt I will have an athlete that will win the race all that often during the game.
The first thing I want is to attack his favorite weapons. I want to take Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown out of the game. Jackson is a smart quarterback but he forces throws to his preferred targets. I would bracket cover Andrews every chance i got.
I’m having Brown have to deal with a physical cornerback playing him tough at the line of scrimmage. My extra defensive back and a linebacker will take care of Andrews on most plays. I want a safety to gravitate towards wherever Brown goes when he stays on the outside. When Brown breaks for the inside I want the extra defensive back to help suffocate Brown and the safety can worry about Andrews.
Mixing up coverage is key. I can’t exclusively play man coverage because Jackson will use it to go off to the races. I can’t exclusively play zone because I will get picked apart. The most common practice though will be to give extra attention to Brown and Andrews and make other receiving options beat me.
The defense has to be gap sound and force the issue with pressure up the middle whether it’s a run play or a pass. I actually think putting your best pass rusher over the center at times makes sense. The key is to get in there and not let Jackson make you play the guessing game in the backfield. Got a joker in the front seven that can do just about anything? Pick your spots and have him blow up the backfield at the shortest possible path.
That’s my simple answer of what I would do against Jackson and the Ravens. That being said, I don’t ever want to have to stop a player like Jackson. There are so many ways it can go wrong.