What History Says to Expect From Lamar Jackson in 2019 and Beyond
We may be in the middle of the NFL's "dead period" – the end of spring practices in mid-June and the start of training camp in mid-July – but discussion about how Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will fare after a dynamic rookie season is always alive and well.
Much of the conversation focuses on whether a dual-threat quarterback such as Jackson, who ran for 695 yards last season, can sustain success. To that end, Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz examined how the five other quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era who had at least 80 carries in their rookie seasons (Jackson had 147 rushing attempts, a record for quarterbacks) performed going forward.
Based on Kasinitz's research, there are reasons for Ravens fans to be both encouraged and discouraged.
The Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, who had 126 carries for 706 yards as a rookie in 2011, is at the top of the optimistic end of the spectrum.
"It's fair for skeptics of Jackson to point out that the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton has about 30 pounds on the Ravens QB," Kasinitz wrote. "Still, Newton set an encouraging example for quarterbacks who want to make design running plays a large part of their arsenal. Newton's finished each of his eight seasons with at least 90 rushing attempts, has never missed more than two games in a year and has reached the Pro Bowl three times. In 2015, he won MVP and lifted the Panthers to the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance."
Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (94 carries for 489 yards in 2012) also gives Jackson supporters cause for optimism.
"Wilson, who has never missed a regular-season start, won a Super Bowl in his second season and established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL," Kasinitz wrote. "One thing to note about Wilson's success: He averaged more than 100 carries per season over his first four years in the NFL, but those numbers shrunk recently, and he totaled a career-low 67 rushing attempts in 2018. The Ravens might be pleased if Jackson can follow a similar path that includes improved passing and a decline in reliance on the run."
Jackson running less could happen as soon as this season. During a conference call with season-ticket holders in May, Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said that Jackson "is not going to be running 20 times a game" because "that's not what this offense is about." Jackson averaged 17 carries in his seven starts last season.
Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III (120 carries for 815 yards as a rookie with the Washington Redskins in 2012) knows all too well about the risks that come with being a running quarterback.
"After leading Washington to an NFC East title during an electric rookie season, Griffin tore his ACL in a playoff loss to the Seahawks," Kasinitz wrote. "He then struggled in 2013 after rushing back to action. … He's started just 12 games in the four years since."
Vince Young was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans after rushing for 552 yards on 83 carries, but he ended up playing just five more seasons.
"He faltered after a promising first two seasons, never throwing for more than 10 touchdowns or rushing for more than 400 yards in a year after his rookie campaign," Kasinitz wrote. "Inconsistent play more than injuries seemed to spur Young's downfall. He serves as a reminder that Jackson has many hurdles to clear on his path to a long and fruitful career."
The other quarterback with at least 80 carries in his rookie season is the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen, who ran 89 times for 631 yards last year.
Biggest Questions for AFC North Teams
ESPN.com's AFC North staff writers took a look at the biggest questions surrounding the teams in the division.
For the Ravens, it was about whether Jackson can develop into an effective passing quarterback in Year 2 – but you already knew that. Here's a look at the top questions for the Ravens' divisional foes:
Cincinnati Bengals: Is this the beginning of the end for quarterback Andy Dalton, or the start of a career revival under new Head Coach Zac Taylor? "The Bengals have long stood by Dalton and said he's the guy they want leading the team, but they haven't had much to show for it with no playoff wins, and the window with A.J. Green in his prime starting to close," Katherine Terrell wrote. "There's more pressure than ever for Dalton to perform under a new head coach, although it certainly doesn't hurt that Taylor has a quarterback background. If anyone can get Dalton to maximize his potential, it's probably Taylor. However, it seems unlikely that Dalton will see another contract in Cincinnati, even if he performs to the best of his ability. In that situation, he could price himself out of Cincinnati. And if he doesn't perform, the team might go with another option anyway."
Cleveland Browns: Are they primed to win the AFC North? "Yes, indeed. There is a constant sense of fatalism surrounding the Browns, deeply and collectively shared among the fan base after so much losing. But Cleveland's window of opportunity in the AFC North has finally arrived," Jake Trotter wrote. "General manager John Dorsey added Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr., defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a roster loaded with potential future stars, such as cornerback Denzel Ward and defensive end Myles Garrett. Factor in the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who dazzled as a rookie, and the Browns are primed to make their run and finally take the division crown."
Pittsburgh Steelers: Can Ben Roethlisberger put the drama behind him and restore the team back among the AFC's elite? "Yes, but not solely based on resurgence from the quarterback," Jeremy Fowler wrote. "Sure, Roethlisberger will find a way to stay productive without Antonio Brown – he's better than most at spreading the ball around – but the division doesn't feature a clear-cut favorite. … The stage is set for Roethlisberger to have one of his best seasons. The team has publicly supported him, the offense is built around him, and he has at least nine viable pass-catching options. The defense features enough new pieces to show improvement, so Roethlisberger doesn't have to do it all. Several players reveled in a drama-free environment during minicamp."
Should Ravens Reunite With Josh Bynes?
Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski identified the top remaining free agents and predicted where they would sign. He has inside linebacker Josh Bynes returning to Baltimore.
Bynes played with the Ravens from 2011-2013 after they signed him as an undrafted free agent. He made the final tackle in Super Bowl XLVII. He spent the next three seasons with the Detroit Lions and the past two with the Arizona Cardinals. Bynes started 11 games for the Cardinals in 2018 and was having the best year of his career before a thumb injury ended his season in late November.
Sobleski noted that the Ravens "didn't make any significant investment at inside linebacker" after C.J. Mosley left in free agency and they plan to rely on Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young, but signing Bynes would provide veteran depth at the position and he could start if needed.
"Bynes is better while working between the tackles. However, he posted five deflected passes in both seasons he started 10 or more games," Sobleski wrote. "Furthermore, Bynes provides special teams depth. If he's not in a starting role, he has experience as a core four special teams performer."
The Ravens reportedly brought in free agent Vincent Rey, who can play both inside and outside linebacker, for a workout last week. However, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec believes the team is happy with what they have at inside linebacker. Zrebiec said a big reason for that is the emergence of Chris Board, who signed with the Ravens last season as an undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State.
"The Ravens have done nothing to address the departure of standout middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, and there's a reason for that," Zrebiec wrote. "The team is confident in what they have at the position. Patrick Onwuasor will move from the weak side to Mosley's spot in the middle, but the revelation could be Chris Board.
"Board beat the odds to make the team last year and he quickly established himself as one of the Ravens' better special teamers as a rookie," Zrebiec wrote. "Now, he's in line to potentially start at weakside linebacker. The Ravens say that Board and second-year pro Kenny Young are even heading into camp, but Board was getting the first-team reps in minicamp."
· To celebrate the 4th of July, NFL.com posted video of the top 10 longest fourth-down conversions in NFL history; the Ravens have three of them.
- To mark that there's 59 days until kickoff for the Oklahoma Sooners, a Sooners blog on SB Nation reflected on a game-winning, 59-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to current Ravens tight end Mark Andrews against rival Texas in 2017.