Michael Vick? Tim Tebow? After One Game, Neither Comparison Is Fair to Lamar Jackson
In the days following quarterback Lamar Jackson's first NFL start, a lot of people have compared the rookie's performance to that of two former NFL quarterbacks known for being able to run and throw: Tim Tebow and Michael Vick.
To be fair, this isn't the first time Jackson has drawn comparisons to those quarterbacks. Vick himself compared the two in a tweet during Jackson’s college days, and said during a recent appearance on Glenn Clark Radio that he sees similarities between the two. And a Google search of "Lamar Jackson Tim Tebow" leads you to plenty of pundits making comparisons, including Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd.
Still, those comparisons have grown louder since Sunday, which may not be fair considering Jackson had a far better first start than the other two.
By the end of Sunday's game, Jackson had thrown for 150 yards on 13-for-19 passing, and rushed for 117 yards on 27 attempts. In Tebow's first start, he completed 8-of-16 passes for 138 yards, while running it eight times for 78 yards. Vick struggled even more than Tebow, completing 4-of-12 passes for 32 yards, while adding just four yards on the ground. He lost a fumble and threw a touchdown.
The combined total yardage of Tebow and Vick on their first starts is 252 yards, which Jackson eclipsed with 267 total yards. Vick went on to have a very successful career in the NFL, while Tebow started just 16 games. It obviously remains to be seen where Jackson will land, but there's no question which of the three had the best start.
It's also worth noting that Jackson broke Tebow's record for rushing attempts by a quarterback in a single game during the Super Bowl era.
NFL Network's Peter Schrager compared the two frequently during Good Morning Football yesterday.
"This is not even 2018 football. This is Tim Tebow with an even greater arm and better legs," Schrager said. "This was to me, the most impressive performance of the week."
Schrager also complimented Jackson's throwing ability, saying "don't get it twisted, this was not one of those Tim Tebow 4-for-6 games. Lamar Jackson threw the ball, and he moved the chains with his arm also."
Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock also drew comparisons between the two but used it more disapprovingly, referring to the limited number of throws Jackson had to make on Sunday as a sign that he's not reliable throwing the ball, which was a criticism Tebow faced.
"I don't think it's sustainable what they had Lamar Jackson do, but it may have been the only thing they could have him do," Whitlock said.
No, Jackson was not perfect throwing the ball in his first game, but he showed signs of being able to do it better than Tebow did in his first start.
As for the Vick similarities, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs actually verbalized them after Sunday's game. When asked about the amount of rushing attempts Jackson had, he responded "Is it unconventional? I am not an offensive coordinator, I don't call plays but I think Michael Vick may have had 24 rushes before."
Actually, the most rushes Vick ever attempted in his career was 15. So yes, the Ravens did run Jackson a good amount more than Vick.
On Monday, it seemed as if Vick was talking about Jackson on every program Fox Sports has to offer, including Speak for Yourself with Whitlock, The Herd with Cowherd, as well as Undisputed with Skip Bayless and former Raven, Shannon Sharpe.
In each appearance, Vick was asked extensively about Jackson, and how often he ran against the Cincinnati Bengals. Though Vick was critical of the 27 attempts, he was also impressed with how Jackson did.
"It was a good win and a good start for [Jackson]. You have to be pleased with his performance," Vick said.
Don't expect these two names to stop being associated with Jackson. Vick and Tebow were newsworthy mobile quarterbacks with huge fan followings, similar to Jackson.
It's also encouraging that Jackson was the best of the three in his debut as a starter.
What Will the Ravens Do at Running Back?
For the second straight week, Baltimore's quarterbacks are getting a lot of attention. Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't weigh in on if Jackson will remain the starter once quarterback Joe Flacco's hip is fully healthy, and doesn't plan to.
That isn't the only position where the Ravens have a multiple options, though.
"Forget the quarterback controversy. What about the running back controversy?" PressBox’s Bo Smolka asked.
Indeed, the fantastic effort on Sunday from rookie Gus Edwards, who finished with 115 yards, has led many pundits to speculate where he will now rank amongst the Ravens running backs. His 5.6 yards per carry average is well above the team's 3.9 average for the season. Edwards' 49 snaps against the Bengals were also more than the three other active running backs combined (31). He was also named to the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week.
Alex Collins has been the starter the entire year, while Javorius Allen has also gotten a lot of chances. Don't forget the Ravens just acquired Ty Montgomery in a trade, and Kenneth Dixon could come off the injured reserve list soon.
So, what will the Ravens do?
PFF’s Ben Cooper is buying into Edwards after one superb performance. His suggestion is for the Ravens to employ a committee backfield, with Edwards getting a good chunk of carries.
"It would require a strong commitment to a rookie running back who still has a lot to prove," Cooper wrote. "Nevertheless, it could be just what the Ravens need to jumpstart what has been an overall mediocre rushing attack."
In this committee scenario, Cooper believes the Ravens should utilize Collins' shiftiness exclusively in the red zone.
"The numbers would back up such a decision, as Collins surprisingly averages a full yard more per carry in the red zone (where there is a lot less space to run in) than when running outside of it," Cooper wrote. "His 4.48 yards per carry in the red zone is also supported by his touchdown output — all seven of them have come when rushing from his opponents' 20-yard line or closer. When outside of the red zone, Collins' average dips to 3.41 yards per carry."
That Edwards is being discussed as a key cog in Baltimore's offense is amazing considering he was put on the practice squad to start the season. He's an undrafted free agent who eclipsed 100 rushing yards in a game just once last year at Rutgers.
After the game against Cincinnati, Edwards now has the look of a running back who can do serious damage in the NFL.
"Just a few days ago, the Ravens announced that Dixon has been designated to return from injured reserve, and conventional wisdom was that Edwards would be let go when Dixon returned," Smolka wrote. "Now, Edwards might have run into the starting job."
Baltimore Has Best Odds to Claim the No. 2 Wild Card Spot
Harbaugh was bullish about Baltimore's chances of making the postseason on Monday, saying "There are six more games to play. It will be determined in the next six weeks. Nothing is over, so all of you guys who counted us out, we aren't out. We're not dead. Sorry."
At 5-5, the Ravens are clearly still in the playoff hunt, and the team's odds to make the postseason also back up Harbaugh's assertion.
ESPN projects that the Ravens currently have a 41.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. That may discourage some Ravens fans, but the team currently has the best odds to claim the second wild-card spot in the AFC. Indianapolis has the next best odds at 33.6 percent.
Despite being give then best chances to make the postseason of the 5-5 teams in the AFC, NFL.com’s Marc Sessler does not believe in the Ravens. He does think the Ravens are in the hunt for the playoffs, writing "Baltimore is firmly in play for a wild-card entry," but don't expect Sessler to project the Ravens to make the postseason.
"This time of year is a boon to all those who strive to keep all 32 teams alive for the postseason -- the Ravens check the box," Sessler wrote. "But the concept that a defense-oriented team -- light on exciting weapons and averaging 23 points a game -- is about to threaten a high-flyer like the Chiefs? No."
No offense to Sessler, but Harbaugh is correct. There's too much season left to be played to say the Ravens are incapable of playing good football. The Ravens have done that at points this season, and are coming off a huge divisional win after a sorely-needed bye weekend. This week they host a team that has struggled this year and won just two games. Anything is possible.
Plus, it's not about being better than the Chiefs. It's about getting into the playoffs.
Pass Rush Is Still Missing
Russell Street Report’s Ken McKusick was complimentary of the defense's effort against Cincinnati, but he still wanted to see more from Baltimore's pass rush. During his film review, McKusick found the Ravens only pressured Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton 14 times on his 38 drop backs.
By McKusick's count, those 14 pressures resulted in just one sack and three quarterback hits.
"The pass rush remained missing in action for a fourth straight game," McKusick wrote.
Indeed, it's been a difficult stretch for the pass rush. Since sacking Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota a franchise-high 11 times in Week 6, the Ravens have mustered just three sacks in four games.
While some may point to the edge rush, McKusick believes the interior rush deserves some of the blame as well.
"Perhaps the most perplexing issue for the Ravens pass rush now is their inability to find an inside pairing with [linebacker] Za'Darius Smith," McKusick wrote. "The Ravens had 19 snaps with three outside linebackers on the field, each of which had one lined up as an inside rusher and each time paired with a single defensive lineman."
To McKusick, the Ravens have really missed defensive tackle Willie Henry in recent weeks. Henry, who was placed on injured reserve after the Ravens played the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, contributed 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits last season while rushing predominately from the interior. The Ravens have used a rotation of defensive linemen to try to replicate his production, but it simply hasn't been as effective as having Henry in there.
McKusick did highlight outside linebacker Tyus Bowser as the most effective pass rusher against Cincinnati. It was a good showing for the second-year player, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career against the Titans in Week 6.
"Bowser had half a sack and contributions to two other pressures as I have it scored in six pass snaps to be the most effective individual rusher by a wide margin," McKusick wrote.
- Edwards wasn't the only Raven to make PFF’s Team of the Week. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley received the honor as well in what PFF rated as his best game of the season. He was given a 90.6 overall score. "Targeted six times in coverage, he allowed three receptions for just 26 yards and came away with a pass breakup," Gordon McGuinness wrote.