Eisenberg: The Lamar Jackson Package Should Be Here to Stay


The Ravens' attempt to fold Lamar Jackson into their offensive blueprint has achieved underwhelming results so far, and like most observers, I'm not sure where it's headed from an X's and O's standpoint.

But there's one thing I'm sure about: The project shouldn't be abandoned, absolutely not.

Jackson's involvement is part of the Ravens' concerted effort to make their offense more explosive, less predictable and more productive. After last season, they correctly ascertained that a shortfall on that side of the ball was a problem.

Their concerted effort, which included bringing in new playmakers in free agency and the draft, is producing positive returns so far: The Ravens are No. 8 in the league in total offense through two games.

Yes, a Week 1 blowout of Buffalo helped produce that high ranking, but the offense is indeed showing more life. It is averaging 5.1 yards per play, better than last year's 4.6. Only two teams have scored more touchdowns.

Jackson's intermittent appearances are helping the cause, if subtly so far. Suddenly, he's on the field, giving Baltimore's offense a different look and feel. The opposition goes on high alert. Keeping the other side off balance and guessing is a big part of football.

He subbed in five times in Week 1, lining up at three different positions, before he became a fulltime quarterback in mop-up mode. He then played six snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, mostly handing off when he wasn't a decoy. His stat line showed two rushes for six yards.

All in all, a quiet start. Jackson's package hasn't produced anything especially negative, either, but the game-breaking skills he exhibited in college haven't appeared yet. (There was almost a disaster when the Bengals sniffed out a reverse and swarmed Buck Allen before he could hand off to Jackson.)

Predictably, this lack of production has generated a naysaying chorus that believes the package disrupts the first-team offense's rhythm and is more trouble than it is worth. My take: if someone was complaining a year ago that the offense was predictable and stale, they're disqualified from complaining about Jackson now.

Another opinion I've heard is he should play an entire series at quarterback now and then, perhaps in the red zone, as opposed to being used intermittently. I disagree. I like the element of surprise. And I don't like taking Joe Flacco off the field for long.

Television broadcaster Troy Aikman did publicly wonder last Thursday night whether the Jackson package was a good idea. He also intimated that Flacco probably wasn't a fan because no franchise quarterback wants his role undermined.

But Flacco didn't take up the chorus in his session with the media this week. "Overall, I think they've had a positive effect," he said of Jackson's plays.

Let's be clear: It isn't accurate to say they've accomplished nothing. The Ravens' longest rush against Cincinnati came after Jackson fielded a snap in a shotgun formation and handed off to Alex Collins on a run-pass option (RPO) play. When a Cincinnati linebacker followed Jackson, it opened a hole for Collins, who rushed for 14 yards.

That play illustrated the pressure Jackson puts on a defense and what could easily happen going forward. The Ravens' opponents already are under pressure to prepare for him.

I think the offense needs to stay bold and aggressive on all fronts, from utilizing Jackson to continuing to air out the passing game, as it has done in the first two games. Yes, a more consistently productive ground game obviously is needed, but after an offseason of intense focus, the passing game is exhibiting more pop. This is no time to retreat into a shell.

The Ravens have admittedly operated at a playmaking deficit in recent years. That is, their opponents have had more guys who could bust a big play.

Jackson is part of the organization's plan to eliminate that imbalance. It would be crazy not to use him just because he isn't starting. He might not be ready to take over for Flacco, but he's certainly ready to make something happen.

Shelving that possibility now, after just two games, would lower the ceiling for the offense. Doesn't make sense, at least not to me.

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