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It's Time For Lamar Jackson

November 09, 2018 - 7:28 pm
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By Alex Woodward

 

At 4-5 heading into their bye week for the second straight season, the Ravens are at a crossroads. Not just in there season but as an orginization. Ozzie Newsome is in his final year as GM before Eric DeCosta takes over. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh very well might be in their last seasons as well. Baltimore is on a 3 game losing streak and now, their first round selection Lamar Jackson has an opportunity to seize the starting quarterback job. 

Before today's news, I was thinking that the Ravens should turn to Lamar Jackson if they lose to Cincinnatti next week. Now, we won't have to wait that long with Joe Flacco dealing with a hip injury. 

Regardless if Joe will require season ending surgery or not, the Ravens need to make the change to Lamar Jackson. After using Jackson mostly as a runner this season in gadget plays (just 12 pass attempts on the year) we finally get a chance to get a real look at Lamar as a quarterback. 

At the start of the year, I didn't mind the way the Ravens were using Lamar. I thought it would keep the defenses on their toes and it's just one more playmaker they would have to account for but those formations have become predictable. Almost every time you would see Lamar on the field, you could almost guarantee that it was a run play and defenses knew this by stacking the box. I've heard multiple fans say that Lamar doesn't have the accuracy to pass out of the pocket and that's why they were utilizing him as a runner. If the Ravens truly believed he wasn't accurate enough to throw the ball down the field, would they have traded back into the first round to select him? No way. 

Coach Harbaugh even acknowledged after last week's loss to the Steelers that he wanted to get Lamar more involved in the offense and he wanted him to pass more, "We're certainly getting run heavy defenses when Lamar goes back there and plays quarterback which is why I want to throw the ball more. Take advantage of that. You don't want to just have him run the ball all the time. He's a quarterback not a running back."

I don't think Lamar has been given a fair chance as a quarterback this season. I understand why they have tried to take advantage of his athleticism but they could also be forcing him into creating bad habits. The last thing you want from a mobile quarterback with Lamar's size is for his first instinct to be run the football. When that's 90% of his experience through his first 9 games of the season, I think that's a dangerous path for what you hope to be your next franchise quarterback. The only time he has actually played real snaps as a quarterback was in mop-up duty in a blowout against the Bills and he played the last series of a lost game against the Panthers. 

The Ravens next 3 opponents all rank in the bottom third of the league in team defense: Bengals (32nd in yards per game allowed), Raiders (27th in yards per game) and the Falcons (28th in yards per game). If there was ever a time to unleash Jackson and see what he has, now is the time to do it. 

"But Alex, the season isn't over yet. Why not turn to RG3?!" 

Statistically yes, the season is not over yet but would you rather hope that a guy like RG3 can somehow lead you to the second wild card spot or would you rather see what the next possible franchise quarterback has to offer? I think Robert Griffin III was brought here to be a mentor to Lamar. I think he is here to show him what not to do when you have his type of skill set and size. If the Ravens were sitting at 6-3 or 7-2, sure I would say roll with RG3 and see if he can manage the team into the playoffs. The playoffs looked bleak with Flacco under center. There's not much to lose by starting Lamar Jackson and a whole lot to gain. He get's experience in a real offensive system. Not a few snaps here and there that are basically designed runs. You also get a large sample size of his performance before the offseason. We know what Joe Flacco is at this point in his career. We have yet to find out what Lamar Jackson brings to the table as a full time starter.  

I also think Lamar could benefit the run game greatly. The Ravens have the 9th most rush attempts in the NFL but rank 31st in yards per carry. Why? Because they have become predictable when he came into the game and they failed to fully commit to a "hot hand". Too many times this season I have seen Alex Collins break a 8-14 yard gain and then they run the ball to Buck Allen the next play. Or vice versa. With Lamar under center for an entire game, opposing defenses can't so easily sell out on the run. Also, maybe Lamar's threat of running the ball could open up more things in the play action game and holes for his running backs.

I'm sure if the Ravens had it their way they would have waited until they were statistically eliminated from playoff contention before turning to Lamar Jackson. Now, with Flacco's hip injury possibly forcing him to miss not just week 11 but more games moving forward; it's time to turn to Lamar Jackson and never look back.

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