Lamar Jackson Is NFL's Most Explosive Runner and Efficient Passer
There have been dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, but the numbers show there has never been a dual-threat quarterback like Lamar Jackson.
Two separate articles published yesterday, one by NFL.com and the other by The Athletic, proved that point. Based on analytics, the 2019 NFL MVP was both the league's most explosive runner and most efficient passer last season.
NFL.com’s Nick Shook used the following criteria to rank the top 10 most explosive runners:
- A minimum of 100 carries in 2019
- At least 20 carries of 10-plus yards
- The defining metric: percentage of runs of 15-plus mph
Jackson, the only non-running back on the list, was No. 1 by a wide margin. Not bad for a quarterback.
"Sure, it shows up on television every week, but to see the statistical divide between Jackson and the rest of the league is breathtaking," Shook wrote. "Jackson carried the ball 176 times in 2019, and he hit a speed of 15 mph or faster on over half of those runs. Add in his ability to stop on a dime, and you see why defenses were so incredibly flummoxed by him for the majority of the season, and why he ended up sprinting (literally) to the MVP award.
"Jackson's total of 15-plus mph runs crept toward 100 (93), which is 20 more than the next closest runner on this list – Dalvin Cook, who had 73 – and was by far the most in the entire NFL, regardless of the criteria we listed above. No one was more explosive than Jackson in 2019, and it wasn't even close."
Jackson used his explosiveness and elusiveness to set an NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback, finishing with 1,206 yards (6.9 yards per carry) in 15 games. Jackson, however, has made it clear that he prefers to throw the ball, and he excels at that, too.
In his first full season as a starter, Jackson led the league in touchdown passes with 36 and threw just six interceptions.
"Jackson is far from a finished product as a passer, but the Ravens finished first in passing efficiency last season," The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia wrote. "Jackson finished first in QBR and fourth in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A). Note that the latter doesn't take running into account. It's solely how efficient a quarterback is as a passer."
Perhaps the statistic that best exemplifies Jackson' huge leap as a passer is Next Gen Stats' completion percentage above expectation, which measures the probability of a completion on every throw. Jackson was 12th out of 39 quarterbacks last season.
"His improved accuracy from Year 1 to Year 2 was remarkable. As a rookie, Jackson ranked 36th out of 39 quarterbacks in completion percentage above expectation," Kapadia wrote.
Kapadia also noted that Jackson produced a negative result (interception, sack or fumble) on only 6 percent of the plays in which he had the ball, which was the fifth-lowest mark among starters.
A deeper dive into the analytics dispels the notion that Jackson can't perform well in the pocket. He was No. 1 in the league in EPA (expected points added) operating from the pocket, and No. 5 from outside the pocket. In addition, Jackson ranked first in EPA against man coverage and sixth against zone coverage.
Three Ravens Named to All-Under-25 Team
Despite Jackson's incredible 2019 season, he did not make NFL.com’s All-Under-25 Team, as the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes got the nod at quarterback. However, three of Jackson's teammates did make the team: tight end Mark Andrews, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
"Andrews served as Lamar Jackson's favorite weapon when Baltimore's backfield wasn't blasting front sevens into the dirt," NFL.com's Marc Sessler wrote. "From another angle: Andrews was explosive enough to allow the Ravens to trade away first-round tight end Hayden Hurst.
"Brown started 16 games on the right side for Baltimore and finished as football's 10th-best pass-blocking tackle, per [Pro Football Focus]. His run-blocking could use a boost, but the Ravens have no questions about whether Brown belongs."
As for Humphrey – who wins the unofficial award for most creative offseason workout – completing a pass against him has proved to be an uphill battle (pun intended).
"Packed into a deep Ravens secondary, the 2017 first-rounder has logged 47 forced incompletions – fourth league-wide – over his first three seasons," Sessler wrote.
The Ravens were tied with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints for most players on the team. Earlier this month, Jackson, Andrews and Humphrey made PFF’s rankings of the top 25 players under 25.
A Healthy Tavon Young Makes Loaded Secondary Even Stronger
In Humphrey, cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Earl Thomas III, the Ravens have three Pro Bowl players in their secondary. They also have players such as cornerback Jimmy Smith and versatile defensive back Anthony Levine, to name two, who add quality depth.
Now imagine just how much of an embarrassment of riches the unit will have if nickel cornerback Tavon Young is 100 percent healthy as expected. Young has played well when on the field, but the 2016 fourth-round pick missed the entire 2017 and 2019 seasons due to injury (he suffered a torn ACL in 2017 and underwent neck surgery last year).
It's easy to overlook Young because of his lost seasons and star-studded teammates, Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote, but "he's been a massive difference-maker for the Ravens defense" when healthy.
"The jury is out on whether or not Tavon Young can be relied upon to remain healthy, but there's no denying how talented he is," Bradshaw wrote. "When he's on the field the defense is simply better. Young's return to this defense is getting severely overlooked, but he'll remind everyone how good he is in 2020."
Young had eight passes defensed and two interceptions as a rookie. In 2018, he recovered three fumbles, returning two for touchdowns. Humphrey did an excellent job playing nickel last year after the Ravens traded for Peters in October, but nickel is Young's specialty.
"Tavon Young's ability to mirror and match against opposing slot receivers while also having good speed and instincts makes him one of the league's better nickel corners," Bradshaw wrote. "With his ability to make plays as well, the upside is there for him to reassert himself as an elite nickel."
Gus Edwards Is Ravens' Most Underrated Player
Speaking of Ravens players who shouldn't be overlooked, running back Gus Edwards was identified as the team's most underrated player by PFF’s Ben Linsey.
Like Young, Edwards sometimes gets overshadowed because of the team's star power at his position, most notably three-time Pro Bowl selection (and noted hype man) Mark Ingram II.
"Edwards has actually been a very effective runner the past few seasons," Linsey wrote. "Over the last two years, his rushing grade of 83.6 ranks 13th at the position, sandwiched between Ezekiel Elliott and Joe Mixon. Thirty-one percent of his runs have gone for first downs or touchdowns — easily leading all running backs with 100 or more attempts over that same stretch."
Edwards, signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2018, has rushed for 1,429 yards over two seasons and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He has five 100-yard rushing games.
With the addition of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins and return of 2019 fourth-round pick Justice Hill, the Ravens envision a four-headed monster at running back that should terrify defenses. At 6-foot-1 and 238 pounds, Edwards is one of the unit's bruisers (along with Ingram) who can wear down defenses late in games.
Jadeveon Clowney Reportedly Rejects Big Offer From Browns
If free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney ends up playing in the AFC North this season, it seems unlikely it'll be for the Browns. Clowney has turned down a significant offer from the Browns, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on ESPN Radio in Cleveland.
"I think they've been the most aggressive team with him financially. And I just think he has balked at going to Cleveland, for whatever reason," Schefter said. "I think he's been hesitant to go because if he wasn't, he would have gone already because it's the most money. It's the richest offer on the table and he hasn't taken it. So why is that? I don't know. Is that not wanting to be in that city? Is that a lack of belief in the organization?"
The Ravens have repeatedly been mentioned as a potential suitor for the former No. 1 overall pick. Earlier this month, it was reported that the Ravens, Browns, Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles had all expressed interest in Clowney, who said he hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks.
If the Ravens are interested in signing Clowney, they would need to createcap space byrestructuring some players' contracts or signing Matthew Judon or Ronnie Stanley to long-term deals.
- Proposals by the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers to add a sky judge are being withdrawn, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.