Busting the Myth That Lamar Jackson Struggles in Passing Situations
The seemingly never-ending debate about Lamar Jackson's ability as a passer flared up again this week, sparked by an anonymous defensive coordinator's assertion that if Jackson has to pass to win the game, "they ain't winning the game."
The take was rebuked by a number of analysts and others, as everyone seems to have a strong opinion on the subject. Refreshingly, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson weighed in on the topic with an analytical approach rather than an emotional one.
"As luck would have it, this can be measured and is not just something we have to take people's word for," Monson wrote.
He concluded that the notion that Jackson can't function in pure passing situations is a myth.
"Jackson does not struggle in passing situations, despite the narrative, particularly if we focus on the player he has become and not the player we saw debut as a rookie in 2018," Monson wrote.
Monson said the narrative originated when Jackson struggled against the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs during his rookie season, and it grew when Jackson couldn't bring the Ravens back from an early double-digit deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs the following season.
However, those two games don't represent Jackson's overall performance in such situations.
Based on data of how quarterbacks performed in pure passing situations in the regular season and playoffs from 2018-2021, Monson wrote: "Patrick Mahomes is some kind of alien, but amongst regular, human quarterbacks, Jackson ranks well. He stacks up very comparably with Aaron Rodgers, one of the best passers in the league. His playoff performance in obvious passing situations has been a little worse than his regular season, but even that has been clawed back after an inauspicious start."
Monson said there is a kernel of truth in saying that Jackson has struggled — specifically passing the football — when his team is trailing, but even that performance improves as the game gets into the final clutch minutes.
"Of course, focusing just on passes strips away one of Jackson's biggest assets: his athleticism and ability to scramble for positive yardage," Monson wrote. "Certain people view quarterback play only through the lens of pocket passing, but moving the chains is moving the chains, and Jackson does that a lot with his legs. When trailing by more than a score over the past three seasons — the situation where Jackson's passing grade is the worst — he averaged 8.0 yards per carry on scrambles, breaking a tackle almost half of the time and getting a first down 39% of the time he took off.
"When you factor those rushing plays into the overall analysis, the Ravens have the best successful play percentage when trailing by more than a score in the league over that time, ahead of Kansas City. They're second only to the Chiefs when trailing in any capacity."
Monson added: "The largest legitimate criticism of Jackson's game is that he hasn't been quite as special as he normally is when his team is trailing — specifically when it comes to passing the football, and even then, only before it gets to crunch time. That's a pretty flimsy argument."
USA Today Predicts Ravens Will Make It to AFC Championship Game
USA Today's Nate Davis believes the Ravens will get past the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but he doesn't see them making it to the Super Bowl.
In Davis' predictions for the 2022 season, he has the Ravens finishing as the second seed in the AFC with a 12-5 record but losing to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game.
"A team riddled with key injuries in 2021 still managed to project as the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed at one point last December before the absence of QB Lamar Jackson and a series of excruciating losses became too much to overcome," Davis wrote. "Jackson now appears ready to go and will strive to recapture his 2019 MVP form as he angles for a contract that could make him the best-compensated player in league history.
"LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), RBs J.K. Dobbins (knee) and Gus Edwards (knee), CB Marcus Peters (knee) and OLB Tyus Bowser (Achilles) all start camp on the PUP list but are expected to provide reinforcements — along with first-round S Kyle Hamilton and C Tyler Linderbaum. Barring more unforeseen circumstances, hard to imagine a team this loaded with talent falling short of the playoffs again."
As for the rest of the AFC North, Davis has the Cincinnati Bengals going 12-5 and making the playoffs as a wild card, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8) and Cleveland Browns (6-11).
Rich Eisen Says J.K. Dobbins Can Be One of the Best Running Backs in the League
After having his entire season wiped out by a torn ACL in the final preseason game last year, Dobbins is determined to return with a vengeance. NFL Network's Rich Eisen is among those who believe he'll do exactly that.
Dobbins landed at No. 2 on Eisen's list of the top five impactful players returning from injury.
"Once he gets back and starts rolling, this offense will be far more significant, especially if we're not going to get much of a passing game out of Baltimore again from the wide receiver position," Eisen said. "J.K. Dobbins is terrific. He can wear you out. He can be one of the best running backs in this league like he was in the Big Ten. I think the sky's the limit for him. I hope he is as healthy as the Ravens hope, and he says he is."
Dobbins has been imploring the Ravens to let him practice this week, but team officials are proceeding with caution and have placed him on the physically unable to perform list.
In response to a report that he is "no sure thing for Week 1," Dobbins tweeted: "I'm damn sure going to be ready for Week 1."