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Late for Work 9/27: Lamar Jackson Emerges As Pace-Setter in MVP Race

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QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson Emerges As Pace-Setter in MVP Race

As Lamar Jackson was doing "Lamarvelous" things against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium began an "MVP" chant.

After another dose of "Lamar football" this past Sunday against the New England Patriots, a number of NFL analysts and pundits have joined the chorus. A week after entering the MVP conversation, Jackson has taken over the conversation.

Jackson soared from No. 4 to No. 1 in NFL.com's Jeffri Chadiha's weekly MVP Watch.

"Buffalo's Josh Allen might have started this season as the clear favorite to win the MVP award but Jackson has closed that gap in a hurry," Chadiha wrote. "It feels like Jackson has produced so many jaw-dropping feats in his brief career already that we take his current success for granted. Don't make that mistake.

"Jackson is generating serious numbers despite all sorts of offensive line upheaval and largely without the assistance of much help in the backfield (J.K. Dobbins just returned to the field after recovering from major knee surgery). It would be inaccurate to say Jackson is carrying the entire Ravens offense all by himself. But he's damn sure coming as close as he possibly can, which means those long-term contract negotiations are likely to get more interesting whenever the talks with the Ravens resume."

Here's a look at what the national pundits are saying about Jackson:

ESPN's Ryan Clark: "Lamar Jackson is playing the best ball he has ever played in his life. … There is no player in the league that is asked to do more for his team, but is delivering at a higher, more elite rate than Lamar Jackson. He's not only in the MVP conversation; he is setting a new quarterback market every time he steps on the field. For all the things that we said about the young guns that were coming up: 'Oh, Joe Burrow's better; Oh, Justin Herbert's better.' It looks different, but it's not better. Lamar Jackson is the scariest player at the position in the entire world."

ESPN's Dan Orlovsky: "He's accounting for 87 percent of the No. 1 offense in the NFL. He won the MVP in 2019; he's playing better and doing more than he did that year. I picked Lamar before this season and there's no reason that I don't believe that Lamar is going to be the MVP of the NFL come the end of season."

ESPN's Damien Woody: "Clearly, Lamar Jackson has played at an MVP level. He's been the best player in the National Football League. The things that Lamar Jackson is doing out there on the field, he's like a magician. Everyone knows that Lamar Jackson is one hell of a runner; but what he's doing throwing the football, he's one of the best quarterback's throwing the football that we have in our league right now. And so when you go against the Baltimore Ravens and that dual threat attack at the quarterback position, it is so hard to stop it because this dude can do anything and everything on the field."

NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "It's the best version of Lamar Jackson we've ever seen. As someone who at times almost felt like I was defending Lamar's play from the pocket during his MVP season, it's still OK to acknowledge that he's at another level right now as a passer, and as a decision-maker he knows when to run, when not to run."

CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr: "What Jackson has done through three games is the stuff of legend. Jackson is the first player in the Super Bowl era to have 10 pass touchdowns and 100 rushing yards through three starts, coming off a performance which he went 18 of 29 for 218 yards with four touchdowns and one interception while also rushing for 107 yards and a score. Jackson has consecutive games with 100 rushing yards and is the first quarterback to have back-to-back games with 100-plus rushing yards twice in his career. He has more passing and rushing touchdowns (12) through the first three games than his MVP season (eight). He also has more rushing yards (243) than his MVP season (172) and is averaging slightly fewer yards per carry (8.5) than the MVP year (8.6) through three games. Jackson is the reason Baltimore has a high-powered offense and is an AFC contender. He's the MVP front-runner through three weeks."

Ravens Looking for No. 3 Cornerback to Emerge

The Ravens' secondary performed much better on Sunday than it did the previous week when the defense blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, but there's still room for improvement.

Although Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was intercepted three times, he threw for a career-high 321 yards, and veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker had 156 yards receiving – just three yards shy of his career-high.

All-Pro cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters delivered strong performances, but the team's young cornerbacks gave up a few long completions, mostly on contested crossing routes.

"[Defensive Coordinator] Mike Macdonald is still searching for a No. 3 cornerback with the Patriots picking on whoever was out there with both Jalyn Armour-Davis and Brandon Stephens having their struggles," Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones wrote. "While Stephens was returning from a quadriceps strain, Damarion Williams also saw snaps, making this a position battle to watch."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote: "If the past two weeks are an indication, the Week 1 season-ending knee injury sustained by veteran corner Kyle Fuller has forced a few young players into roles they might not be ready for."

Asked yesterday about whether he wants somebody to emerge as the obvious No. 3 cornerback, Head Coach John Harbaugh said it's not a big concern.

"I'd like them both [Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams] to emerge as a No. 3 and also other guys. Brandon Stephens, he's coming off a little bit of a muscle pull, so he probably didn't have a step – a full step there," Harbaugh said. "Daryl Worley does a nice job and he's in the mix there as a corner. Even some young guys like Ar'Darius Washington are practicing really well. I'm not really worried about that. We'll just keep coaching those guys and just keep developing them, and they're going to get more and more comfortable out there."

Quick Hits

  • After being favored in their first three games, the Ravens are a home underdog for Sunday's meeting with the Buffalo Bills. The line is between three and four points, depending on the sportsbook.

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