The more Lamar Jackson runs, the more you will hear pundits and fans say something to the effect of, “But what if he gets hurt?!?!”
Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens won’t be scared to utilize one of Jackson’s greatest strengths – his game-breaking speed and elusiveness – because they’re afraid of injuries.
With that said, it’s never bad to have a good insurance policy.
New General Manager Eric DeCosta made his outlook on the value of a backup quarterback clear during his introductory press conference last week.
“I think that position is often overlooked, unless you need that guy, and then he becomes critical,” DeCosta said. “We want to make sure we have a good backup in place regardless of Lamar Jackson being quarterback or somebody else being the quarterback. Having two quarterbacks is essential in the NFL.”
An obvious candidate to back up Jackson in 2019 is the same player that backed him up last year – Robert Griffin III. Griffin impressed Head Coach John Harbaugh on and off the field, and he was a good veteran voice for Jackson.
Griffin saw action twice in eight games when Jackson went down with, or was evaluated for, an injury. He had a full series in Atlanta when Jackson was checked for a concussion and Griffin finished out the game in Kansas City after Jackson tweaked his ankle.
The Ravens believe any quarterback can get hurt. Pocket quarterbacks are susceptible to shots around their legs or defenders crashing down on them when taking sacks.
However, by virtue of Jackson running a lot – he had more rushing attempts than any quarterback in NFL history last year – he will take more hits than the typical quarterback. He seems to have a knack for avoiding the big hit, but it only takes one.
“There’s no faster way to ruin your season than to get your starting quarterback hurt and not having an effective backup quarterback,” DeCosta said. “Your season is basically over at that point. We never want to be in that position again.”
After a year out of football, Griffin proved that he’s back and capable of helping a team win. He did well when stepping in for Jackson in those brief stints, and he was good in the preseason and practices.
The other big aspect is that the mobile Griffin, who is well-versed in run-pass option offenses, would allow the Ravens to keep the same system in place if Jackson were to go down.
Griffin is headed for free agency this offseason and said he will look for opportunities where he has a shot at a starting job. But if one doesn’t present itself – it may be challenging considering not too many teams are looking for a new starter – Griffin’s best way to see action on the field may be behind Jackson. Plus, it allows him to stay in a place that he said he loved.
One other (familiar) possibility could be Tyrod Taylor, who is scheduled to hit free agency this offseason after one year mostly spent backing up Baker Mayfield. Since he’s a dynamic runner, Taylor would also allow the Ravens to keep their same offensive system, and he’s a proven winner who fit in well during his four years in Baltimore (2011-2014).
“I would probably lean toward the backup being similar to Lamar,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what I would hope we would be able to do. Obviously, ‘RG3’ is a great option there. There are others out there like that, that can do those things.”