The Baltimore Ravens capped an impressive first half of their season with an equally impressive dismantling of the previously-undefeated New England Patriots 37-20 in front of the Sunday night national audience. This was the Ravens’ first primetime game of the year and they made a huge statement behind another great performance from their leader on offense, quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore lept out to a 17-0 lead and, outside of a few miscues in the second quarter, controlled the game and completely dismantled a great Bill Belichick defense.
There was a lot of strong reaction to the Ravens’ dominance of the Patriots but Perhaps the biggest quote to come out of the postgame pressers was one by Earl Thomas. “[Jackson] played MVP-type football” the three-time All-Pro safety said of his quarterback, “us on defense, we just try to give the ball back to them and create more stops and let MVP do his thing.” The MVP conversation is close right now but Thomas clearly knows who he would select if he were to pick from the candidates. He has also spent the entirety of his NFL career prior to signing with the Ravens in the Seattle Seahawks locker room with another one of the front-runners, Russell Wilson.
Though it’s easy to brush off Thomas’ comments as supporting his teammate, Jackson has made a really good case for himself in 2019. He’s beating great teams, breaking records, all while his team is leading their division. With his level of play and the uniqueness in his game, Jackson should be the NFL MVP if he continues to play the way he has.
Lamar Jackson Is a Serious NFL MVP Candidate
Not Bad For A Running Back
It’s impossible to say Jackson isn’t playing with a chip on his shoulder in 2019. One of the biggest NFL jokes of the summer was calling Jackson a ‘running back’ based on the amount of rushing attempts he had in his first eight starts in the NFL. Usually, professional athletes don’t talk much about the things said about them on the internet but Jackson let every one of his critics know that he hears the things said about him. “Not bad for a running back,” Jackson said in response to his second question, at his first regular-season press conference.
Jackson has started the year showing his doubters exactly what he can do with his arm, and with his legs. He has already broken the record for most rushing yards through the first eight games of a season by a quarterback and has his sites set on breaking on the single-season record. Michael Vick is the current record holder with 1,039 rushing yards on 123 attempts in 2006. At this rate, Jackson is on pace to shatter that record by over 200 yards. He’s running a lot more than Vick did with 99 attempts on the year already, but Vick was averaging an insane 8.45 yards per attempt. However, Jackson is running more effectively than he did in 2018. His yards per rushing attempt has elevated in a big way from 4.73 last season to 6.43.
The key difference between Vick’s 2006 season and Jackson’s 2019 season is that Jackson’s team is having a lot more success. Vick’s Atlanta Falcons didn’t even have a winning record that season while Jackson’s team is currently four games above .500. This kind of running quarterback is something very new to the NFL and Jackson is making opposing defenses pay game-in and game-out.
Lamar Jackson is A Human Cheat Code
The NFL has simply never seen a player that looks that way Jackson has in 2019. Vick is the closest comparison but even he never had the elusiveness from the pocket and ability to scramble that Jackson has displayed. One of the most frequently used phrases to describe Jackson has been ‘Jackson is a video game,’ and there is a lot of truth to this statement. He’s quick, elusive, and even with the additional year of film on him, is insanely hard to tackle.
Jackson’s passing line on the season currently looks like this: 1,813 passing yards, a 12:5 touchdown to interception ratio, a completion percentage of 64.3%, and a passer rating of 95.4. Maybe not the most impressive line, but there is no stat that you’re unhappy with. Added with his rushing stats, Jackson has accounted for 2,450 yards of offense (306.25 per game), 17 touchdowns, and only five turnovers. Remember, no player in NFL history has ever had a season with 3000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards. Jackson is on pace to eclipse both by a wide margin. You can say Jackson doesn’t have the arm that Vick did, but he’s producing more without it.
Perhaps even more impressive are the Ravens numbers as a total offense. Baltimore currently ranks second in total offense averaging 427 yards per game but dive a little deeper and you see just how effective it is as a whole. The Ravens rank first in each of these categories: offensive yards per drive, points per drive, points per game, and time of possession per game. The revolutionary offense spoke of by head coach John Harbaugh headed by Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman is real.
That’s what an MVP does. They do something that has never been done before and are the reason their team is able to achieve sustained success.
To Be The Best, You Got To Beat the Best
Prior to the Ravens win over the Patriots, I wrote about Jackson not having a signature win to his name thus far in his career. The closest thing to one being his Week 16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. However, that was somewhat tainted by the Ravens losing to the same team just two weeks later. Their win last Sunday over the Patriots was his first signature win.
Cris Collinsworth even said early in the second quarter of the Sunday night broadcast “this is one of those moments in time when we’re going to think back in a few years and go, you remember the night when Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ style of offense took apart the Patriots?”
Along with the dominance over the Patriots, the Ravens also have a victory over the Seahawks and their own MVP candidate. Wilson and Jackson dueled Week 7 and Jackson came out on top. Neither player was at their best, as both finished the game completing less than 50% of their passes, but Jackson had one of the defining moments of his career with his legs. In maybe the most clutch moment of his season, in a 13-13 game, Jackson convinced his head coach to keep the offense in on the field on a 4th and 2 play from Seattle’s eight-yard line. As the entire team blocked in front of him, Jackson would slash his way into the end zone and score the game-winning touchdown on the QB power run. This was the exclamation mark on a 116-yard rushing performance.
When you think of an MVP season, you think of the moments Jackson has captured. Beating the best teams with iconic plays that will remain in NFL lore. With the way Jackson plays, there are likely going to be more of these moments as the season goes on.
The First Raven to Ever Do It
If you aren’t buying into the way Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are playing, then what more do you need to see? Jackson is heading a revolutionary offense and is showing that it can have success against the best teams in the NFL.
Usually, the most valuable players on a Ravens roster is part of their defense. In the Ravens short history, three individual Ravens have won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, with Ray Lewis taking home the honor twice. The only Raven to take home Offensive Player of the Year was Jamal Lewis in 2003. This year, Lamar Jackson is overtly the linchpin in the Ravens offense and the most important player on the unit. A Raven has never won the NFL MVP award but Jackson has a great shot to be the first as he’ slowly becoming one of the most dynamic players in NFL history.
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