What Do Advanced Stats Say About Perceptions of Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson has equally fervent supporters and doubters among fans and media members regarding his viability as a starting quarterback, but what can be deduced about Jackson when hot takes are replaced by cold hard facts?
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz relied on advanced statistics to address perceptions about Jackson's rookie year. If numbers don't lie, the truth about Jackson's performance last season surely will surprise some people.
Here are some takeaways from Kasinitz's research:
The belief that Jackson didn't make – or even attempt – a significant number of difficult throws is off base.
"While 37 quarterbacks attempted more passes than Jackson's 170 during the regular season, the Ravens rookie often made throws across the middle, down the field or into tight coverage when he had the chance," Kasinitz wrote. "The stats suggest Jackson was aggressive and wasn't as reliant on short swing passes or checkdowns as some critics might contend."
Citing the NFL's NextGen stats, Kasinitz noted that Jackson ranked 11th out of 41 qualifying quarterbacks in "aggressive percentage," which is defined by throws in which a defender was within a yard of the intended target.
Another misconception about Jackson is that he struggled to make sound decisions and read defenses.
"Jackson underwent a learning process as a rookie, but his low interception rate and the team's success on third downs paint the picture of a quarterback who was prepared and rarely fooled," Kasinitz wrote.
Jackson threw three interceptions on 170 attempts, a percentage that ranked 12th in the league. The Ravens' third-down conversion rate of 44 percent during Jackson's starts was among the league's best.
One criticism of Jackson that appears to have some basis in fact is that he had issues with accuracy as a rookie. Jackson himself has acknowledged that it's something he needs to improve on and has worked hard to do during the offseason.
"If there's one NextGen statistic damning to Jackson's supporters, it's this: His expected completion percentage (62.7) was higher than his actual completion percentage (58.2)," Kasinitz wrote. "That minus-4.5 difference was the fourth-worst out of 41 qualifying passers."
That said, Jackson's overall completion percentage was higher than fellow rookies Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, and he was steady from week to week.
"Until the playoff loss to the Chargers, Jackson never had a start in which he completed fewer than 54 percent of his passes or failed to rack up at least 5.7 yards per pass attempt," Kasinitz wrote.
Questions about Jackson's accuracy were largely responsible for him being ranked 28th out of 32 quarterbacks on The Athletic's Quarterback Tiers, which was based on a survey answered by 55 NFL coaches and executives who were asked to place all veteran starting quarterbacks into one of five tiers and then offering insights into their thinking. Jackson was in Tier 4's "not enough evidence to make an evaluation" category.
However, as one personnel director was quoted as saying in the article, Jackson possesses significant intangibles.
"I was high on Lamar coming out," the personnel director said. "I think he's a winner; he has the 'it' factor. It does not always show with his passing accuracy, but guys like Lamar who have the ability to electrify and bring their teammates together — that is a pretty cool deal."
On a side note, Jackson was mentioned in ESPN’s Bill Barnwell’s list of "2018 stories which might seem likely to reoccur in 2019 and … why they're not likely to happen again." He wrote that no one should be surprised if Jackson's running workload is reduced.
Jackson averaged 17 carries in his seven starts, by far the highest average for a quarterback in NFL history.
"I would expect Jackson to fall back to around 10 carries per game in 2019," Barnwell wrote. "The Ravens will still use Jackson as a threat to hold the ball on read-option looks, and he will still scramble for big plays, but they'll hand the ball more to new starter Mark Ingram and count on Jackson to be a more effective passer in his first full season as a starter."
Barnwell's assessment echoed what Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said during a conference call with season ticket holders in May.
"I think you'll be pleasantly surprised that Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game," Bisciotti said. "That's not what this offense is about."
Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Hollywood Brown
What can fans expect from wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown in his rookie season?
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects 45 receptions for 720 yards and six touchdowns for the Ravens' first-round pick in an NFL.com article on best- and worst-case scenarios for seven intriguing offensive rookies.
If Brown can achieve those numbers, it would be the second-best season, statistically speaking, for a rookie wide receiver in Ravens history. Torrey Smith had 50 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2011.
Jeremiah wrote that the best-case scenario for Brown is that he "emerges as the No. 1 receiver for quarterback Lamar Jackson, with the ground game setting up beautifully for him to cash in on the deep ball. He also creates excitement after the catch in the quick game and is used effectively on fly sweeps."
On the flip side, the worst-case scenario, according to Jeremiah, is that "Brown is slow to recover from his foot injury (he's opening camp on the NFI list after undergoing Lisfranc surgery in February), and he's an afterthought in the Ravens' run-heavy scheme, with the tight ends eating up the majority of the production in the passing game."
Ray Lewis Partnering With Little Italy Restaurant
Ravens great Ray Lewis wasn't talking about food when he said, "You gotta be hungry for it," during one of his inspirational speeches, but that doesn't mean the Hall of Fame linebacker isn't passionate about eating.
To that end, Lewis is partnering with a restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy called Lew Gambinos that's expected to open next month, according to The Baltimore Sun. Lew Gambino's replaces Ciao Bella, of which Lewis was a longtime customer.
"I've been going to the restaurant for 10 years plus and the relationship just grew," said Lewis, via The Sun's Meredith Cohn. "Week after week, after every game and the place started to become a second home. The Gambinos became family. It's a natural fit."
The article noted that "Lewis has been helping 'refresh' the environment and the menu to include more locally grown food, more salads, vegetables and fish — he always made two orders of each, plus pasta, as a customer."
"Ray has been a faithful customer and friend for over 10 years and has decided to further his involvement by becoming a partner," Tony Gambino said in a statement. "We couldn't be more excited."