As Other Young Quarterbacks Ascend, Is Lamar Jackson Still in Top Tier?
Exactly two years ago yesterday, Lamar Jackson was named the unanimous NFL MVP after his record-setting season.
The consensus was that the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and Jackson were the two best young quarterbacks in the league.
Since then, the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen and Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert have emerged as top-tier quarterbacks, and in the minds of some, surpassed Jackson.
Jackson just experienced his toughest season. He threw a career-high 13 interceptions, took a career-high 38 sacks, saw his quarterback rating drop for a second straight year, and missed five games due to an ankle injury and illness.
Meanwhile, Burrow has led his team to the Super Bowl, Allen thrived in the playoffs, and Herbert led the AFC in passing yards (5,014) and touchdown passes (38).
Is Jackson still considered a top-tier quarterback? The topic was debated on ESPN's "Get Up" yesterday.
"It's a 'What have you done for me lately?' league," Jeff Saturday said. "I get that he was MVP in 2019, but … Lamar wasn't great against the blitz [this season]; he was turning the ball over; there were things that he was doing as a player, and then he gets hurt. And here's the biggest factor: he's not practicing. And so you can't evolve and develop a passing game when your receivers are hurt, your quarterback is hurt, guys are missing time from Covid.
"There are a number of different reasons. It's not excuses, it's reasons. But his performance was not the standard of what he's looking for this season. So when you're talking about the other guys and they're making it to championship games and Super Bowls and all those different conversations, he has to get himself back in there by winning."
Domonique Foxworth said the suggestion that Jackson is no longer a top-tier quarterback is "absurd." He pointed out that Jackson, who has a 37-12 record as a starter, was one of the leading candidates for MVP early in the season for leading the injury-depleted Ravens to first place in the AFC North.
"Let's not get carried away and think that Lamar Jackson is not in this group," Foxworth said. "He's not here right now because of what happened this season, but he's just as impactful on his team and their style of play.
"I'm certainly not going to sit here and pretend like we can put Lamar Jackson a tier below these guys. He's done it. He got an MVP trophy in his second year and was balling out at the beginning of this season. "
Dan Graziano said Jackson is in the right organization to get the most out of his unique talent.
"I have faith in that organization, that coaching staff, that front office to keep the structure around him good and find a way to win with him," Graziano said. "Too often the conversation about Lamar Jackson focuses on what he can't do, his shortcomings. But what he can do is astounding and has the ability to elevate a team beyond just good and into great. We've seen it."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said during his press conference Monday that Jackson is determined to come back strong next season.
"The conversations that I've had with him, he's really, really determined," Harbaugh said. "I can't even emphasize enough how determined he is to improve and get our offense where it needs to be.
"As a coaching staff, as a scouting staff, we want to do our part. We have to trust and rely on Lamar and all the players to do their part, to go to work. He's got a plan to do that just like all the guys do, and go to work and come back here in April better than you were when you left."
Remembering Tom Brady's Most Memorable Game Against the Ravens
With the G.O.A.T. officially announcing his retirement yesterday, ESPN named Tom Brady's most memorable game against each team. There were a number of them to choose from for the Ravens, but ESPN’s Jamison Hensley settled on a playoff game on Jan. 10, 2015 in New England.
"In another classic postseason game against the Ravens, Brady threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-31 victory in an AFC divisional playoff game, rallying the Patriots from a 14-point second-half deficit," Hensley wrote. "On the winning drive, Brady completed 8 of 9 passes and even ran for a first down. In this game, he threw his 46th career postseason touchdown pass, surpassing Joe Montana for first place on the all-time list."
Other than the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots were the Ravens' biggest rival during Brady's 20 seasons in New England. Brady went 9-4 against the Ravens in his career, but just 2-2 in the playoffs.
Brady had been 8-0 in home playoff games until the Ravens defeated the Patriots, 33-14, in the wild-card round in January 2010.
In the AFC Championship Game in January 2013 in New England, the Ravens prevailed, 28-13. It was the first time a road team beat the Patriots in the conference title game and the first time Brady lost a game at home after leading at halftime.
Pundit Says Retaining Greg Roman Was Right Move
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has become a polarizing figure, but Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried said Harbaugh's plan to move forward with Roman was the obvious and right move.
"By all accounts, the Ravens still believe that Roman is one of the better offensive coordinators in the NFL, and the numbers do support that," Fried wrote. "Injuries plagued the Ravens roster in 2021, causing Roman's offense that had ranked first and seventh in points per game in 2019 and 2020, respectively, to fall to 17th in the NFL. Since 2011, Roman had just one offensive unit rank below 12th in the league in points per game prior to 2021."
During Harbaugh's press conference, he acknowledged that injuries obviously played a factor in the offense's struggles, but he didn't use them as an excuse. Still, he believes the Ravens have the right people in place for an offensive resurgence next season.
"I know we can look at [our issues] with the coaching staff that we have, build off it with the players that we have," Harbaugh said. "Let's choose our scheme direction wisely. … We've got all the elements in the offense."
Ravens Are No. 7 in ESPN's Rankings of Offseason Capital
ESPN ranked all 32 teams' assets to improve through free agency and the upcoming draft, and the Ravens came in at No. 7. The formula for the rankings combined current cap space and the position of each draft selection.
Although the Ravens have just $12.7 million in cap space (according to ESPN's Roster Management System, which is based on a $208.2 million ceiling per team), they have 10 draft picks, including the 14th-overall selection, the highest they've picked since 2016.
By comparison, the AFC Champion Bengals, who have $48.6 million in cap space, are just No. 16 in ESPN's asset rankings because they're scheduled to pick near the end of every round and are projected to have no compensatory picks.
"In addition to having the No. 14 position in the draft, the Ravens received an extra third-round pick after the Texans hired former assistant coach David Culley as their head coach, as well as a pair of projected compensatory picks for losing free agents Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, per Over The Cap," ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote. "The Ravens need to replenish their defensive talent, and they should have the cap space to re-sign center Bradley Bozeman if they want."
- Jim Harbaugh, John's younger brother, is expected to become the next head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, according to TheWolverine.com. Harbaugh is scheduled to interview for the job today, but "multiple sources say it's a formality."