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Mailbag: Why Is Lamar Jackson Underrated?

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Mink: It's laughable that Lamar Jackson isn't ranked in the top 10 quarterbacks right now. Supposedly, the ESPN rankings are mostly based on rankings from more than 50 league executives/coaches/scouts/players. I would guess that players have Jackson ranked higher than the same executive/scouts who passed on Jackson back in 2018. To me, this is yet another case of old-school football evaluators being stuck on their version of what a quarterback should look like instead of seeing what a quarterback can look like. Jackson is a unique weapon and whenever there's something that breaks the mold, it gets extra scrutiny.

It's preposterous that Jackson is ranked below Deshaun Watson, for example, despite the fact that Watson hasn't played in over a year and Jackson has clearly bested him in one-on-one matchups. The same tired arguments that Jackson isn't equipped to lead comeback wins (despite the fact that he has done so numerous times) and wears down late in the year (despite a sterling December track record) were trotted out. But don't let facts get in the way of a regurgitated take.

Downing: After the addition of veteran Justin Houston last week, I don't expect the Ravens to add another outside linebacker. Houston filled the void of having a proven pass rusher, especially early in the season as Tyus Bowser works his way back from a torn Achilles. It's unknown exactly when Bowser and rookie David Ojabo (torn Achilles) will get back on the field, and there will likely be a ramp-up process once they do return to action. The Ravens will lean heavily on Houston during that time, and I expect him to improve on the 4.5 sacks he put up last season.

The other consideration at outside linebacker is that the Ravens have high hopes for second-year player Daelin Hayes. He essentially redshirted his rookie season because of injuries, but he showed great burst off the edge during offseason practices and looks poised to take a leap. Hayes will get opportunities to prove himself in camp and the preseason. An injury could certainly change the calculation in terms of the need to add another pass rusher. If the Ravens suffer an injury at outside linebacker, or see Bowser or Ojabo suffer a setback, then they may go back to the free-agent market to add valuable depth.

Mink: Kyle Hamilton can fit in at multiple spots and I expect him to do so. He's rangy enough to play deep safety and try to shut down the downfield passing attack. He's big enough and vicious enough to play near the line of scrimmage in more of a box safety role. He's athletic enough to play in the slot, matching up against tight ends or big slot receivers. I expect that the Ravens will not lock him into one kind of role and Hamilton already said that during rookie minicamp he had a lot on his plate. The Ravens have been very pleased with what they've seen from their rookie first-round pick and plan to utilize his rare traits.

Downing: J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both spent time rehabbing at the team facility during the offseason, but they have yet to practice. The Ravens have said they will take it slow in their recoveries and won't rush them back onto the field, so their practice absence isn't an indication that they're behind schedule. Last year showed that the timelines for knee injuries can be difficult to predict, and Head Coach John Harbaugh has been reluctant to provide definitive timetables for their return. He told reporters during minicamp last month: "They're all on schedule, but what is the schedule?"

Harbaugh did say Dobbins is pushing to practice, but that he and Edwards "have work to do still." The Ravens would love to have Dobbins and Edwards on the field at the start of training camp, but the real priority is to have them ready for the season. The Ravens added insurance at running back with the addition of veteran Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie, so they have depth in case Dobbins or Edwards take longer in their recoveries than expected. The Ravens will rely on their running game in a big way again this year, so they want to make sure that they top two ball carriers are full strength once they get back on the field for game action.

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