Why Lamar Jackson Is Better Than Ever as a Scrambler
Lamar Jackson's evolution as a drop-back passer this season has been much-discussed, and the statistics reflect his growth in that area.
In first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's more pass-centric offense, Jackson is just 194 yards away from surpassing his career-high of 3,127 yards passing, while his rushing yards per game (49.5) is the lowest since his rookie season in 2018.
However, a deeper dive into the numbers shows that while Jackson has taken his passing game to new heights, he is still excelling as a runner. In fact, The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer pointed out that Jackson is better than ever as a scrambler.
Shaffer cited Jackson's performance in the Ravens' 37-31 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday as an example of how much of a dual threat the NFL's greatest dual-threat quarterback still is.
"On passes attempted between 2.5 and four seconds after the snap — what the NFL's Next Gen Stats considers 'in rhythm' throws — Jackson went 14-for-21 for 243 yards, three touchdowns and an interception," Shaffer wrote. "Only the San Francisco 49ers' Brock Purdy finished with more passing yards on in-rhythm throws in Week 14.
"On scrambles, though, no one was more prolific or productive. Of Jackson's 70 rushing yards Sunday, 68 came on scrambles, 22 yards more than the Week 14 runner-up (the Chicago Bears' Justin Fields), according to TruMedia. Jackson's eight scrambles were the second most of his career, behind only a 2021 win over the Minnesota Vikings in which he scrambled 10 times."
Shaffer said that Jackson has become a more proficient passer as his command of Monken's offense grows by the week, but "he remains willing to create for himself as a runner. Maybe more willing than ever." Jackson's scramble rate of 12.5% is a league-high and career-high.
"Improved pocket management explains Jackson's spike in scrambles somewhat," Shaffer wrote. "According to Pro Football Focus, he has been sacked on just 18% of his pressures this season, down from 20.9% last season, 21.8% in 2021 and 19.1% in 2020. (Jackson's most elusive year as a starter came in 2019, when just 16.4% of pressures were converted into sacks.) The more takedowns a quarterback avoids, the more opportunities he has to scramble.
"But with the Ravens embracing a pass-first philosophy this season — according to the analytics site RBSDM.com, their early-down pass rate in competitive games (58%) is the NFL's seventh highest — Monken might have also fostered a more scramble-friendly environment. It's not like Jackson has been running for his life; his pressure rate (6.7%) is only the 18th highest among the 40 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts this season, according to TruMedia."
Four Ravens Among PFF's Top 50 Free Agents
Four Ravens made PFF’s 2024 free agent rankings, led by defensive tackle Justin Madubuike at No. 6.
"Madubuike has a strong case for being the player to earn himself the most money in 2023," PFF's Brad Spielberger wrote. "With at least half a sack in 11 of 13 games this season, Madubuike has already doubled his prior season high — and he may double his total pressure output by the end of the season, as well. His effort and intensity on backside pursuit plays have always been there, and now an improved arsenal of moves with a more explosive first step has Madubuike set to cash in big time."
Spielberger's contract projection for Madubuike is four years, $92 million ($23 million per year), $60.25 million total guaranteed.
Here are the other pending Ravens free agents in PFF's rankings:
- G Kevin Zeitler
"The Ravens adding Zeitler as a street free agent in 2021 after he was a cap casualty of the New York Giants has provided tremendous value, as he is on pace for more than 1,000 snaps played in every year with the team. The stalwart is still going strong at 33 years old, earning a pass-blocking grade above 80.0 for the second consecutive season in 2023. The Ravens let left guard Ben Powers walk last offseason on a big contract, so perhaps they keep Zeitler around to pair on the right side with another stalwart veteran in Morgan Moses at right tackle, pushing to lift a Lombardi Trophy before the two hang it up.
"Contract projection: Two years, $15 million ($7.5 million per year), $9.5 million total guaranteed."
- Edge Jadeveon Clowney
"Clowney is having a career year with Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald dialing things up for him, deploying simulated pressures and exotic blitzes out of various fronts. It seems Clowney will probably ride out the rest of his career on successive one-year deals that fluctuate based on his production the year prior, and he certainly earned himself a raise this season. He is on pace for his highest pressure rate, highest pass-rush win rate and most total pressures in a season.
"Contract projection: One year, $9 million, $8 million guaranteed."
- ILB Patrick Queen
"Queen's prowess as a pass-rusher … carries significant value in addition to his strong play against the run and in coverage over the last two seasons. His 35 quarterback pressures and eight sacks over the last two seasons are both second among off-ball linebackers. With Baltimore's addition of linebacker Roquan Smith — the highest-paid player at the position after last year's extension — and several other pending free agents, Queen should get to test the market and potentially do quite well for himself.
"Contract projection: Four years, $72.5 million ($18.125 million per year), $50.25 million total guaranteed."
Roger Goodell In Favor of Eliminating Hip-Drop Tackle
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to see the hip-drop tackle eliminated. That type of tackle has resulted in a number of players being injured, including Mark Andrews.
The tight end suffered what is likely a season-ending ankle injury last month when Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson tackled him from behind and dropped his hips to the ground and on top of Andrews' ankle, putting an immense amount of pressure on the back of Andrews' leg.
"Hip drop, I would tell you, I think we all should work to get that out of the game," Goodell said yesterday at the December League Meeting. "You see it escalated in the number of times it occurred this season. The injury can be very devastating. We saw that also. It's not just happening at the NFL level. It's also happening at other levels. (It's) something I feel like we've got to work very hard to get that removed this spring."
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent agreed with Goodell, referring to the hip-drop tackle as a "gruesome play."
"One thing that we can do today is define what that is," Vincent said. "It is the grip, it's the rotate and it's the drop. Those three mechanics show up on that play."