Lamar Jackson is building a case for being the best running quarterback in NFL history.
With his 70 rushing yards Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Ravens’ electric offensive leader tied the record for the fastest quarterback to reach 1,000 career rushing yards. Jackson did it in just 21 games.
The man who he shares the record with? None other than his backup, Robert Griffin III.
The difference between Jackson and Griffin, however, is that Jackson has started just 12 of those 21 regular-season games. Griffin started all 21.
Jackson was dynamic as a runner last season, when he was used as a change-of-pace weapon until taking over as the starter midway through the year. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and finished the season with 695 rushing yards.
This season, Jackson has become an even more effective runner. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry and already has 308 rushing yards. That puts him on pace to finish with 986 for the year.
Only one quarterback has ever rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season and his name was Michael Vick. Vick did it in 2006 – his sixth season in the NFL. Vick has consistently said Jackson is a better runner than he was.
"That's a dangerous man behind center," Vick told TMZ earlier this season.
Jackson’s juke moves have made opponents – paid NFL athletes – look silly at times this season.
“I like my chances against anyone one-on-one,” said Jackson, who has at the same time has made it clear he’d rather not be in that position.
"I hate running. Only if I have to, but my job is to get the ball to the receivers, the tight ends, running backs. If I have to run, I'll do it, but I'd rather just sit back and pass it. I like throwing touchdowns instead of running them.”
Of course, there will always be critics and those nervous watching Jackson run, fearful that he’ll get injured.
Vick only played 16 games once in his 13-year career. Griffin suffered a knee injury from a massive hit from former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata during his rookie year, which changed the trajectory of Griffin’s career. The Redskins didn’t want Griffin – their No. 2-overall pick – to run as much anymore.
Griffin has talked to Jackson a lot about his running and lessons learned about protecting himself. Jackson seems to be naturally adept at avoiding big hits and has done a better job with it in each start.
His philosophy is that if he thinks he can score, he’s going for it. Otherwise, he’s protecting himself. Jackson wants big running plays, not just routine shorter gains.
Head Coach John Harbaugh agreed with a reporter’s assessment that Jackson is not putting himself at risk.
“If you watch the game, he's really good at it,” Harbaugh said. “He's also very dangerous with the ball in his hands, and his runs really factored into the game big time. They have for a few games this year. So, it's one of our weapons, and we're not trying not to use our weapons.”