© Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson May Just be Marty Mornhinweg’s Kryptonite

November 25, 2018 - 8:47 pm
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For the second straight week, Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a win while Joe Flacco stayed sidelined with a hip injury.

The Ravens improved to 6-5 with a 34-17 win over the Oakland Raiders and sit firmly in the final Wild Card spot in the AFC with a matchup against the Atlanta Falcons next week.

Assuming Flacco is cleared to practice and healthy, the debate will ensue – Who should start in Week 13? 

Despite whichever way you may feel, having Jackson under center has suppressed one of the worst tendencies of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

The Ravens actually have to RUN the football.

Before Flacco’s injury, he was on pace to set a career high in pass attempts for a season (673), averaging roughly 42 per game. In losses to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 5, Flacco threw 111 combined pass attempts. 

During the first nine games, the run game was non-existent. The Ravens ranked among the worst rushing attacks in the NFL and their highest individual rushing total was a 68-yard performance from Alex Collins against the Denver Broncos in Week 3. 

Collins struggled to find consistency, Buck Allen was never meant to be an every-down running back and any potential for Kenneth Dixon was dismissed with another stint on injured reserve.

In came Lamar Jackson and the offensive philosophy was forced to switch. Jackson is a naturally gifted rusher and not as strong of a passer as his quarterback counterpart. Paired with undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards, he and Jackson rushed for 269 combined yards against the Bengals, then 189 yards against the Raiders.

Edwards became the first Ravens rookie to rush for back-to-back 100-yard games since Jamal Lewis did in 2000.

Mornhinweg has been criticized time and time again for abandoning the run game during his tenure as coordinator. In some cases, the Ravens could afford to do it with Flacco but they can't with Jackson. 

And that’s a good thing.

The Ravens have totaled 96 rushing attempts over the past two games. Compare that to just 57 attempts in their previous three games against the Saints, Panthers, and Steelers – all which were losses. 

Sure, it’s taking advantage of poor defenses but I don’t believe the offensive line has gotten considerably better with Jackson under center. It's just harder for opposing defenses to key in on multiple rushing threats, one happening to be the quarterback. 

Whether you’re pro-Lamar or pro-Flacco, there’s one thing that can be agreed on. It’s that the Ravens don’t possess the necessary talent to win in shootouts against the likes of the Falcons, Chiefs, and Chargers.

They do, however, have a chance to win those games by controlling possession with the ground game and exploiting the deficiencies of opposing front-sevens.

It’s a small sample size with Lamar calling the signals but the Ravens have adapted to an offense that best suits how this team is currently built and that includes suppressing the ability of Marty Mornhinweg to trend towards his pass-happy tendencies.