Michael Vick: What Lamar Jackson Is Doing Is ‘Shocking’
The former quarterback who Lamar Jackson is most often compared to said he is shocked at how dominant the Ravens star has become in just his second season.
“We understand this is what you’re going to get from Lamar, and he’s done it so consistently that I don’t see anything changing,” Michael Vick said on FOX Sports’ “Undisputed.” “He’s done everything right, he’s made all the right decisions, play inside the pocket, outside the pocket.
“Just shocking to me as far as what he’s been able to do, and it’s just a great thing to see.”
Jackson, who has proved his doubters wrong by excelling with his arm and legs, is on pace to rush for 1,261 yards this year, which would shatter Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback of 1,039, which he set in 2006 with the Atlanta Falcons.
Vick, who has served as a mentor to Jackson, said he’s surprised his record is in serious jeopardy, but he couldn’t be happier for Jackson.
“I’ll be honest: I didn’t think it would ever be broken,” Vick said. “I didn’t think a guy would come along and play between the tight hashes and do the things that I’ve done, but it’s just a pleasure for me to watch and see another guy just emulating that style – and doing it better.”
Vick believes one of the motivating factors for Jackson is that he lasted until the final pick of the first round, when the Ravens traded back into the round to select him at No. 32.
“Lamar was the last player in the green room. I remember being in the draft room that day and talking to Lamar, saying it’s going to be OK,” Vick said. “Aaron Rodgers also sat in that green room for a long time [in 2005], and what came from that? So much motivation. And it’s a drive that comes with that. I think that’s something that he’ll never forget.
“So the more we continue to compliment him [and] make comparisons, the harder he’s just going to go, and it’s not going to stop.”
Vick’s colleague, former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, credited the Ravens’ brain trust for implementing a plan to maximize Jackson’s unique skill set.
“[Ravens Head Coach] John Harbaugh put this plan in motion when they selected this kid, because they brought Greg Roman on [as offensive coordinator],” Sharpe said. “They knew in order to maximize what this kid could do, they needed to find someone that outside of the box, someone that was familiar with this type of skill set and what it can do in the NFL.
“I believe the sky is the limit.”
Roman first returned to Baltimore in 2017 (he was an offensive line assistant with the Ravens in 2006-2007) and was promoted to offensive coordinator last offseason.
In addition to Roman’s influence, Vick also credited Ravens Quarterbacks Coach James Urban, who was quarterbacks coach with the Eagles when Vick was there in 2009-2010, with being a significant factor in Jackson’s development.
“I know [Urban] spends a lot of time with Lamar, because I spent a lot of time with him in Philadelphia and I know how he can be as far as detail,” Vick said. “This offense is so suited for him, I would do everything I could to keep Greg Roman close to Lamar as long as I can.”
Coaching Jackson Has Harbaugh Feeling Young Again
CBS play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan enthusiastically referred to Jackson as Houdini when describing Jackson’s amazing 47-yard touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. Apparently, Jackson really is a magician, because he has reversed the aging process for his head coach.
Harbaugh told CBS Sports analyst and former Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher that coaching Jackson has rejuvenated him.
“It makes you feel young, man,” said the 57-year-old Harbaugh, who is in his 12th season as the Ravens’ head coach. “The only time I feel old is when I look at a picture. Most of the time I feel like a kid. With these guys, and the new football that you put in and the schemes you’re talking about, and the guys and the laughs that you have, it rejuvenates you.”
The candid sideline conversation between Harbaugh and Jackson in Cincinnati, in which the coach told his quarterback how special he is, exemplified the bond they’ve formed. So did the moment they shared after the Ravens’ win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2.
That’s when Harbaugh interrupted Jackson’s post-game interview on the field to give him a hip bump. Look at the ups!
Three Ravens Make ESPN’s Top 25 Under 25 Rankings
Jackson was ranked No. 2 (behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and last season’s MVP Patrick Mahomes), while cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 11), 23, and tight end Mark Andrews (No. 25), 24, also made the list.
Here are some excerpts of what ESPN’s Mike Clay wrote about each of them:
Jackson: “He is a difference-maker on every snap. … Sure, Jackson isn't as polished as some other top quarterbacks, but his combination of passing and rushing contributions cements him as one of the most dangerous players in the league. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 2018 first-round pick is squarely in the MVP discussion this season.”
Humphrey: “Humphrey deserves additional credit for his versatility and ability to competently shadow opposing star receivers. Unlike some top corners, he plays both sides of the field and the slot. He has shadowed the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Antonio Brown during his first two seasons, and has traveled with Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyler Lockett already this season. Humphrey doesn't have the awards or get the recognition of many others on this list, but that won't be the case for long, as he has established himself as one of the best corners in the game.”
Andrews: “He's averaging 7.4 targets per game – a massive 27 percent team share – and has been targeted at least seven times in all but one of Baltimore's nine games this season. A downfield force, Andrews' 9.8 average depth of target ranks second among tight ends. With Lamar Jackson locked in at quarterback – and his affinity for throwing to tight ends – Andrews is set up well for many years of high-end production.”
Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., 23, received honorable mention recognition.
Ravens Have Top Offense and Top Defense Since Week 7
The narrative earlier this season was that the 2019 Ravens defense was failing to uphold the franchise’s legacy of dominant defenses. After the Ravens shut down a potent Houston Texans offense led by sensational quarterback Deshaun Watson, that narrative has been sacked.
The Ravens’ explosive offense is the talk of the league, but the reason the Ravens have vaulted to No. 1 in power rankings and are being labeled a Super Bowl favorite is because the revamped defense is more than holding up its end.
Since Week 7, the Ravens have had the top offense and top defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
The trade for cornerback Marcus Peters and signing of free agent linebackers L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes during the season have helped spark a defense that had given up 500-plus yards in losses in Weeks 3 and 4.
“The Ravens’ thorough destruction of the AFC South leaders Sunday was more of a testament of just how far their defense has come in less than two months,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote. “[Defensive Coordinator] Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s patchwork group harassed the Texans and their MVP candidate, Deshaun Watson, by sacking him six times, intercepting him once, forcing a fumble and allowing just 169 passing yards and 12 yards rushing.
“The Ravens made Watson look ordinary, just like they did to Tom Brady two weeks earlier, and just as they did to Russell Wilson on Oct. 20. It seems the better the opposing quarterback, the better the Ravens defense plays. Watson had never been shutout in the first half in either his college or pro career until Sunday.”
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote: “It's obvious by now that the Ravens' offense is the toughest group to prepare for in football. But if the Ravens' defense continues its incredible transformation, it will be safe to say the same about preparing for that unit.
“Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale was creative in manufacturing pressure early in the year, but the dramatic overhaul in personnel in the front seven did not take hold immediately. You can't replace Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley (who departed via free agency this offseason) overnight, and the players needed time to understand what Martindale wanted -- just as he needed time to find the right players.”
So what’s the biggest concern for the Ravens now?
“If there's anything thing to worry about for Ravens fans, it's that the team is peaking now,” Rosenthal wrote. “This is the definition of a good problem.”