Late for Work 6/26: Analysts (Again) Debate Whether Lamar Jackson Takes Too Many Hits

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QB Lamar Jackson

Analysts Again Debate Whether Lamar Jackson Takes Too Many Hits

Whether Lamar Jackson takes too many hits has once again become a subject of debate. The topic was discussed on ESPN's "Get Up" yesterday, and analysts had contrasting opinions.

One thing that can't be disputed is that Jackson was contacted more times (205) last season than any quarterback since the statistic was first tracked in 2006. Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was second (184) in 2015.

Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck expressed doubt about Jackson's style of play being sustainable, something Jackson has heard ad nauseam.

"The question coming into last season was can you do this for an entire season?" Hasselbeck said. "Well, they proved that you can do it for an entire season. But can you do it for five years? Can you do it for three years? That ends up being the issue. … It is a massive concern in terms of the sustainability of what they're doing."

Hasselbeck noted that being a running quarterback eventually took a toll on Newton, who at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds is a "bigger, stronger man than Lamar Jackson," who is 6-2, 212.

Former NFL center Jeff Saturday took the opposing view. He argued that Jackson needs to play to his strengths, and also pointed out that pocket passers often take brutal hits.

"I'm not into the whole sustainability thing," Saturday said. "Carson Wentz got hurt. Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. These are not guys that you think, 'Hey, I'm building my team around running the football.' You have to be the best at what you do. Lamar Jackson is best when he is a dual threat. This is what he's done his whole career. This is what this team is built around. … Protect your body as best you can, but ultimately you can't change the player that you are."

As far as durability, Jackson rushed 655 times for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns during his three years at Louisville and never missed a start. Moreover, despite the record number of times Jackson was contacted last season, he was adept at avoiding especially hard hits, which is something he called attention to during an interview with Mike Tirico of NBC's "Football Night in America" last November.

"Gotta watch the game up close. I'm not really taking no hits," Jackson said. "You can get hurt in practice on a dropback. Knock on wood. … So you can get hurt doing anything. It don't matter if you're running.

"I play ball to win. I don't worry about getting injured. I'm going to play ball. And I'm going to do what got me here to help me succeed [and] help my team keep winning. That's all I can do. I can't stop you guys from saying nothing."

Miles Boykin: You Should See How Spectacular Lamar Is in Practice

There's a line from an old Ike & Tina Turner song that goes: "What you see is what you get, what you don't see is better yet." Judging by Miles Boykin's comments on "Good Morning Football," the lyric could apply to Jackson.

As dazzling as Jackson was in games last season, what he did in practice last year was even more spectacular, the second-year wide receiver said.

"I think everybody else was surprised about the MVP and the season, but everybody who's on the team had seen that stuff before," Boykin said. "He does that stuff all the time in practice. Some of the throws he makes against our defense, I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing. It's ridiculous. Honestly, when we go out to the game, it's toned down a little bit. He does some pretty spectacular stuff in practice."

Among the other topics Boykin discussed on the show was his work with United Way's COVID-19 Relief Fund. He held a virtual meet and greet on Chatalyze in April with all proceeds going to the fund.

"It was just really important for me to find a way to give back," said Boykin, who noted that his mother is a nurse. "Obviously, I help her out a lot, but it has to do with the whole community. … I think this pandemic really hits close when you have somebody that could be going through it. I had a couple family members get it. I had one pass away."

Ravens Among Best at Retaining and Developing Homegrown Talent

Heading into the 2020 season, the Ravens have 27 homegrown players on their roster, which is tied for fourth-most in the league, according to NFL.com. Even more impressive than the Ravens' number of homegrown players is the elite level in which many of them have performed.

Of the Ravens' record-tying 13 Pro Bowl players last season, 10 were homegrown. After this year's draft, ESPN's Jamison Hensley noted that it's possible for the Ravens to put a group of 11 players on offense that are all homegrown talent.

A homegrown player is defined as: "Any player who's still on the same team that drafted them. This can also include players who are back with their original team after stints elsewhere (excluding 2020 draftees)."

The Ravens' success with homegrown talent is a testament to the front office's ability to draft quality players and the coaching staff's ability to develop them.

Over the past decade, the Ravens have gotten the second-best value out of their draft picks, according to Football Outsiders, and their 2018 class – which includes Pro Bowl players Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. – ranked as the third-best group during that span.

"Despite making the postseason six times over the past decade, the Ravens ranked 11th out of 32 terms in terms of draft capital, according to Football Outsiders (or, in other words, their picks should've netted them the 11th-best crop of draftees)," Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz wrote. "The jump from 11 to No. 2 is a credit to former GM Ozzie Newsome and his long time second-hand man, [Eric] DeCosta, who took over in January 2019. In terms of draft capital vs. returns, or how often a team outperformed expectations based on draft slots, Baltimore placed sixth out of the NFL's 32 teams in Football Outsiders' metric."

Tyler Huntley Is Fourth-Highest-Graded Rookie Quarterback

Thirteen quarterbacks were drafted this year. Utah's Tyler Huntley wasn't one of them, but a strong case can be made that he should've been.

Huntley, who signed with the Ravens after the draft and hopes to make the team as a backup, was the fourth-highest-graded rookie quarterback by Pro Football Focus.

Of the three quarterbacks ranked above him, one was the No. 1-overall pick, another was the fifth-overall pick, and the third was drafted in the second round.

"When you adjust for circumstances and strength of opponent, Huntley ranks fourth in his draft class in per-play PFF grade, fourth in [Expected Points Added], fifth in completion percentage, fourth in yards, ninth in rate of positively-graded throws and second in rate of negatively-graded throws (to Joe Burrow)," PFF's Eric Eager wrote. "This leads to a pretty solid projection for Huntley, with comps such as rookie-deal Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner Minshew and Kyle Allen.

"Given his play-level fundamentals, I'm going to bet on Huntley if he's given a chance to be a backup in the NFL. Luckily, the Baltimore Ravens have given him this chance."

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