Though my argument for promoting Jackson running the ball more is undoubtedly an unpopular opinion among Ravens fans, hear me out!
Out of all active starting QBs, Jackson ranks dead last in passing yards and, as a team, Baltimore ranks second-to-last in weekly average passing yards at 177.8. Nonetheless, the team remains efficient in the passing game, yet the offense’s inconsistent ability to march down the field through the air and put up points is a bit concerning for me.
Look at Baltimore’s next five opponents after the bye. First, they play Pittsburgh, who absolutely thrives on a healthy run-pass balance — which has resulted in them ranking fourth in the league in average points per game at 31.2. The Ravens play the Steelers twice in the month of November.
After Pittsburgh, the Ravens face a sneaky good Colts team. Though the Colts often have trouble finishing drives with touchdowns, the team’s offense is very efficient, filled with a number of playmakers, and often end their drives with points of some sort. Phillip Rivers has always seemed to give the Baltimore defense headaches in the past, too.
Then, New England is the next foe to be faced. I am less worried about this game since New England’s offense is predicated on moving the football on the ground more so than through the air. Cam Newton can’t be discounted, but I don’t expect that many points will be put up on the offensive side (since Baltimore’s run defense is considerably better after the addition of Yannick Ngakoue).
After New England, Baltimore faces Tennessee. The Titans rank second in total offense, tenth in passing yards per game (265.4), fourth in rush yards per game (157.8), and second in points per game with 32.8. The Titans have a very distinguished ability to put up points in a hurry as evidenced by how many shootouts they’ve found themselves in this season.
Based on how the Ravens offense has looked thus far this season, I find it very hard to believe that their offense can match the amount of points opposing offenses put up. Regardless of the addition of Ngakoue, teams with bonafide playmakers will find ways to put up points on the offensive side. Both the Steelers and Titans are among league's most talented offenses.
So what does this mean for Jackson and the Baltimore offense?
The Ravens haven't demonstrated their ability to hold the ball, run it down team’s throats with their stock of running backs, and score touchdowns off of 14-play drives as fans were so accustomed to seeing last season. Baltimore’s passing offense definitely took a hit, and the absence of the sure-handed Hayden Hurst is a big reason why.
Yes, Dez Bryant will have a potential opportunity to be activated to the 53-man roster and contribute to the offense but after being nearly two years removed from an NFL game, his burst, hands, and game speed remain to be seen. In essence, I can’t trust that Bryant will be who he was.
If the Ravens are to move the ball up and down the field against these teams who rely on their offenses to score some sort of points on any given drive, you best bet that Jackson should use his legs more.
Let’s be real here. Based on what we’ve seen, I find it very hard to believe that Jackson will be throwing his way to victory anytime soon. At the same time, Baltimore’s running backs have been average at best. Despite what appears to be a healthy 5.4 yards per carry average, which ranks first in the NFL, such numbers are skewed due to a number of long (ahem) Lamar Jackson rushes.
Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins have been far from impressive during the last few games, and I believe further involvement of Jackson in the running game will open things up for those two running backs. Far too much predictability exists in Baltimore’s run game, and a big reason for that is the sparse usage of Jackson.
Sometimes, the easiest way to gain a 20-yard chunk is through a zone-read option where Jackson keeps the ball. With the exception of Marquise Brown and, at times, Mark Andrews, gaining large chunks through the air can’t be consistently expected by Baltimore’s offense.
Does this suggestion pose great risk? Of course it does. Will I be holding my breath every time Jackson keeps? I’d be lying if I said no. However, by the looks of the transactions Eric DeCosta is making, it’s clear the Ravens are going all-in for a full-fledged Super Bowl run. It’s only a matter of time until certain players are looking for extensions (and the Ravens have a lot of candidates), and money needs to be dished out to keep those core guys. While everyone is on their rookie contracts right now, the Super Bowl pan is at its hottest.
Despite the woes of Baltimore’s offense, the one solution and player that can be relied upon to make plays is Lamar Jackson. The season is still young, but the Ravens need to beat these upcoming AFC teams for a shot at a bye in the playoffs.
With that said, all I can say is: Let Jackson run.
Should Jackson run the ball more?
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