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Lamar Jackson endured doubt, ridicule and draft disrespect as the last of five quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
After winning a Heisman as a freshman at Louisville, some NFL scouts, and a reputable former GM named Bill Polian, even suggested that Jackson switch positions, claiming that he had the athleticism but didn’t have the accuracy or brainpower to command a pro team.
While the other rookie QBs were given starting jobs and allowed to develop with losing teams, Jackson had to wait his turn. When starter Joe Flacco went down and Jackson’s number was called, the rookie was sensational.
He took over a Baltimore team that was struggling to stay in the playoff picture and produced a 6-1 record, guiding them to the postseason, by mostly using his legs.
Despite his success, doubters remain as the 2019 season begins. While the Cleveland Browns sophomore Baker Mayfield is getting all the props and fools are overlooking Jackson’s impact as a player again.
Former Ravens Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe — a fierce proponent of Jackson in 2018 — is now throwing some shade on Jackson’s game as a run-first QB.
"Cam was 6'5" between 250-260. Lamar is 212. Zeke's 225-230. Gurley's 230. Saquon, 230. To run that many times, you need girth, you need umph. You run him over at what he ran last year, you're talking 2-3 years then you'll be back in the market looking for a QB." – @ShannonSharpe pic.twitter.com/j0OxxqTTJl
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) July 30, 2019
I wouldn’t bet against Jackson. His 1,201 passing yards and 58 percent completion percentage wasn’t sensational, but he proved to be every bit of a winning quarterback and that’s the bottom line in the NFL. Guess we can add Sharpe to the list of guys who doubt Jackson’s ability to endure constant pounding in the NFL.
There’s one person who isn’t concerned with Jackson’s style of play and isn’t going to scale back the running plays to protect his QB from injury. Coach John Harbaugh was questioned about how Jackson’s rushing attempts this season would compare to Cam Newton’s career-high of 139 attempts.
Harbaugh replied, “I’d bet the over on that one.”
Harbaugh added, “We’re about to find out what the limits are on that. I think it’s going to open up opportunities for quarterbacks.”
The coach’s statement implies that the Ravens are going to run even more than they did last year with Jackson, so if folks were expecting to see more aerial attacks this season, they need to think again. Harbaugh is relying on the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” when it comes to Jackson’s impressive and effective running load.
Until NFL teams figure out a way to stop the locomotive, the Ravens are going to stay ahead of the game with an old school style.
Jacksons set the all-time QB record for rushing attempts last season with 147.
My #RZ46 rookie QB of the year award goes to Lamar Jackson. Not only did he lead his team to the playoffs with a 9-6 record as a rookie, but he also led his team in rushing with nearly 500yds on the ground pic.twitter.com/SVvK9iRapC
— RZ Donovan McNabb (@RZ_QBCritic) September 15, 2018
If he plays a full 16 game this season that number should fall between 145-175 rushes, which is quite a dangerous load for a franchise QB.
Harbaugh’s statement should be taken with a grain of salt. He implies that Baltimore is not confident enough in Jackson’s passing game to abandon the run-heavy offense, but the coach could also be bluffing league opponents, while he actually prepares to increasingly use the pass as an effective element of surprise.
In any event, Jackson is ready to shut the haters up once again.