Sports Medicine Doctor: What to Expect From Lamar Jackson If He Plays Sunday
The big question surrounding the Ravens this week is whether Lamar Jackson will start Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.
Jackson, who suffered an ankle sprain during this past Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, did not practice yesterday, but Head Coach John Harbaugh hasn't ruled him out for the Packers game.
The real question, according to Dr. David Chao of Sports Injury Central, is how effective Jackson can be if he plays.
"If Lamar was an immobile pocket quarterback, I think he would have no problem playing," said Chao, former head team physician for the San Diego Chargers. "Part of his game is mobility and then throwing against an eight-man box. Because of this, it becomes a coaching decision whether he plays or not.
"The key here is, even if he does play, we don't believe that Lamar will be 100 percent on that ankle given how athletic he is. … Even if he can suit up, his mobility won't be fully there."
Keep in mind that Chao has not evaluated Jackson. He is only making a guess based off the video he's seen and what the Ravens have said about the injury. Every ankle sprain can be different, and players recover at their own pace.
Harbaugh said yesterday that Jackson is "day-to-day right now." With Jackson's status in question, the Ravens signed veteran quarterback Josh Johnson off the New York Jets' practice squad yesterday and added him to the 53-man roster.
As noted in yesterday's Late for Work, some pundits have suggested that the Ravens should start Tyler Huntley against the Packers if Jackson isn't fully healthy. Their reasoning is that it's more important to have Jackson as close to 100 percent as possible when the Ravens play the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 26 in a game that could decide the winner of the AFC North.
When Harbaugh was asked yesterday how much looking ahead to the Bengals game factors into the decision of whether Jackson plays Sunday, he said: "I would say that factors zero percent. We're trying to win this game. Every win right now is … you want every win you can get."
What 'Big Problem' Do Ravens Need to Fix Before Playoffs?
Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox identified one "big problem" playoff contenders need to fix before the postseason. For the Ravens, it's their pass protection.
Jackson has been blitzed 149 times this season and been sacked 38 times, both of which are career highs. He also has thrown a career-high 13 interceptions.
Knox acknowledged that the Ravens have been hit hard by injuries on the offensive line, including All-Pro Ronnie Stanley opting to have another surgery to fix his ailing ankle.
However, Knox contends that schematic changes could be made to improve pass protection.
"It's unlikely that Jackson's ankle injury is going to help matters, and it may temporarily take away the option of using designed quarterback runs to beat the blitz," Knox wrote. "Instead, the Ravens should put a premium on max protection and short pass patterns that allow Jackson to get the ball out quickly."
Knox added that Jackson needs to do his part by making quicker decisions.
"Baltimore must also stress to Jackson that his tendency to buy time in the pocket and look for the big play needs to be reeled in — at least until he's back to 100 percent," Knox wrote. "Otherwise, more mistakes and perhaps a bigger injury will follow."
Rashod Bateman One of Key Players for Stretch Run
Coming off a breakout game in which he caught seven passes for 103 yards, rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman has emerged as a player who will be crucial to the Ravens' success down the stretch, according to Ebony Bird's Justin Fried.
"Mark Andrews is the centerpiece of Baltimore's passing attack. Marquise Brown remains a dynamic big-play threat every time he's on the field. But for the Ravens to truly have a complete array of pass-catchers, they need Bateman to get involved too," Fried wrote. "If the rookie can continue to make the same impact he did this past Sunday over the course of the final month of the regular season, the Ravens should be able to set themselves up nicely for a playoff run."
After getting just one target the prior week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first-round selection was on the field for 65 percent of the Ravens' snaps against the Browns.
"The Ravens need to do a better job of getting Bateman more consistently involved in the offensive gameplan. And that starts with just getting him on the field," Fried wrote. "If the Ravens are going to snap out of their offensive funk and find success on that side of the ball down the stretch, they're going to need all hands on deck on offense."
Ravens' Top-Ranked Run Defense Bodes Well for Playoff Hopes
Despite injuries to key players on the defensive line, the Ravens are ranked No. 1 in the league in defending the run, allowing just 85.5 rushing yards per game.
Baltimore also has given up the fewest rushing first downs (62) and is allowing 3.94 yards per carry, which ranks fourth.
They're doing it despite Derek Wolfe missing the entire season due to back and hip injuries, and Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell missing multiple games due to injury.
"If the run defense continues to perform at a high level, the Ravens will have a good chance at making the postseason," Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich wrote.
The Ravens held the Browns' potent rushing attack to 40 yards on 17 carries in Week 12 and 100 yards on 29 carries last Sunday. They've only allowed one 100-yard rusher this season. The Minnesota Vikings' Dalvin Cook ran for 110 yards against the Ravens in Week 9, with 66 yards coming on one play.