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Lamar Jackson Looked Up to Cam Newton. Now He's Breaking His Records.

Left: QB Lamar Jackson; Right: Patriots QB Cam Newton
Left: QB Lamar Jackson; Right: Patriots QB Cam Newton

Lamar Jackson was still in middle school when Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 2010. But Jackson was certainly paying attention.

"I watched Cam since Auburn. Everyone in the country did," Jackson said. "Everyone knew about Cam – Superman – doing his thing. A lot of us looked up to him."

Jackson and Newton shared the same field in 2018, but that was when Newton was still with the Carolina Panthers and Jackson was a seldom-used gadget backup quarterback behind Joe Flacco.

This time, with Newton now in New England, the two will meet as starters and fellow former MVPs on "Sunday Night Football." Jackson doesn't often show excitement when talking about the opposing team's quarterback, but he had a little glint in his eye when discussing Newton.

"He's a mobile quarterback. He does his thing," Jackson said. "He won the Heisman, won the college championship, won MVP, went to the Super Bowl. I followed him a lot, wanted to get to where he's at. Now I'm here, now I've got to play against him. I just can't wait to do that."

Newton wasn't the first mobile quarterback in the NFL, but he did usher in a new style of mobile quarterback. Other guys picked up yardage often when they were left alone and all their receivers were covered. They scrambled to move the chains and, occasionally, broke loose for a big one.

Newton, however, changed the game. He was a designed runner – a 6-foot-5, 245-pound bruiser who could wear down, run around or leap over defenses.

"Game recognize game," Jackson said. "He's the O.G. – Superman."

Jackson has taken it a step further, and does it in a different way with his blazing speed and ankle-breaking juke moves.

Jackson has gone about breaking Newton's records. In the first quarter of the Ravens' Week 3 game against the Chiefs, Jackson surpassed Newton's record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in his first three seasons.

Newton, who was an immediate starter in Carolina, had 2,032 rushing yards. Jackson, who didn't take over until midway through his rookie season, has 2,370 ground yards.

Last season, Jackson became the only quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes and rush for 80-plus yards multiple times. Newton was the only other one to accomplish the feat and he did it just once.

Newton has 5,120 career rushing yards over his 10 seasons while Jackson has 2,730 so far in his three. Pundits ask Jackson all the time whether he envisions himself running less as the years go by. But Newton has proven that you don't have to.

Newton's rushing numbers have oscillated from year to year. After rushing for just 359 yards in 2016, he put up 754 in 2017, then fell back to 488 the following year.

This season, the Patriots have transitioned an offense led by future Hall of Fame pocket passer Tom Brady to one that caters more to Newton's strengths, and he's on pace for 717 rushing yards. Newton is running just as often as Jackson this year, averaging 10 carries per game.

This week, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was asked whether the arrival of more dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL will have a bigger effect on how teams reimagine their passing attacks or rushing schemes.

"That's an interesting question. A lot of quarterbacks have their rushing yardage in the passing game," Belichick said. "In the Ravens' case, it's a combination of designed quarterback runs, quarterback keeps, which are a part of the play but not necessarily designed for the quarterback – it's an option – and then their quarterback scrambles, which are plays that aren't designed for the quarterbacks that become improvised plays that athletic quarterbacks make. So it's a combination of all of those things.

"Running yards that come in the passing game are a little bit different than running yards that come in a running game. I know it all looks the same on the stats sheet, but I'll tell you, it's not. Defensively, I don't think you look at it quite the same way."

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