Lamar Jackson 'Dominating' in Preseason Is a Big Deal
We all know preseason games don't count, but that doesn't mean they don't matter. That's especially true in the case of Lamar Jackson, whose every move during exhibition games, and even on the practice field, is heavily scrutinized.
So, yes, the fact that the Ravens quarterback has performed well in the team's two preseason games is a big deal. At least that's the consensus of the "Good Morning Football" crew, which discussed the importance of Jackson leading the Ravens to four scoring drives in five possessions this preseason in their "Big Deal or No Big Deal?" segment.
"Even though last year was amazing for Lamar Jackson, he was still in the infancy stages of his career," Nate Burleson said. "So he was a child, but now he's maturing. You know how you see a couple that you haven't seen in a while and then you see their young kid that grew a few inches and you're like, 'Look at you, big fella!" That's what I see in Lamar Jackson. This preseason is like, 'You're really getting big.'
"Now he hasn't hit full maturity yet, but Lamar Jackson's not a baby anymore. He's dominating. I can't wait to see it in the regular season."
Kay Adams agreed, saying: "He took his team to the playoffs, so all I really want to see from him – and we haven't even seen any exotic looks or anything – [is] just be better. Build on the way you ended the season … and he's doing that. So it's a big deal."
Kyle Brandt said Jackson's productive preseason performances are "a huge deal" and also noted that the Ravens have yet to reveal what their offense is truly going to look like.
Brandt was amazed by Jackson's electrifying 18-yard touchdown run (which was nullified by a penalty) against the Green Bay Packers Thursday night, but like many fans and pundits, he expressed concern over whether Jackson can stay healthy making those types of plays.
"I can actually feel the Xbox controller in my hand as it's happening, with the jump button and the spin button," Brandt said of Jackson's dazzling, highlight-reel dash. "But this is one of those things that is good for me and bad for me. I love watching it, but it terrifies me."
That leads right into our next talking point regarding Jackson. John Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh-based TribLIVE.com said the notion that quarterbacks who run frequently are bound to get hurt is a misconception.
"If you asked a Steelers fan who will start more games this year, Jackson or Ben Roethlisberger, just about everybody would pick Roethlisberger," Steigerwald wrote. "Because, as everybody knows, quarterbacks who run a lot always get hurt. Really? Jackson ran the ball 128 times in his eight starts as a rookie and was still standing after a playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers. Is he the exception? Nope.
"Lots of running quarterbacks have stayed healthy, and that includes a group of guys who never heard of sliding, which is a relatively new concept."
Steigerwald pointed to the impressive durability of mobile quarterbacks who rarely -- if ever -- slid, such as Kordell Stewart, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, John Elway and Fran Tarkenton. He also noted that Jackson rushed 655 times for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns during his three years at Louisville and never missed a start.
"Yeah, players are bigger and faster now, but modern quarterbacks also are protected like fine china," Steigerwald wrote. "Quarterbacks, especially ones who have the ability to make people miss, might get hurt less often if they stopped looking for a place to fall down and kept making people miss. … Your favorite stay-in-the-pocket, slide-at-the-first-sign-of-trouble quarterback is more likely to get hurt."
Our John Eisenberg offered a similar take.
"Remember, he's playing football, a sport of, by and all about contact. No one gets to sign a waiver and play in bubble wrap," Eisenberg wrote. "If a guy is on the field, he (and those who root for him) have to understand and accept that he's going to take some hits. The alternative is just don't play. Don't get on the field. Don't send imaginations soaring with a 'Lamar Leap.' No thanks. I'd rather enjoy the ride."
Ray Lewis on Jackson's Leadership, Picking Crabs With Peyton Manning
While legendary Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is in the camp of those who believe Jackson should protect himself more against contact, the first-ballot Hall of Famer said he loves Jackson's enthusiasm for football and potential as a team leader.
That's high praise coming from one of the NFL's all-time great leaders.
"That's why he loves contact, because he loves the game of football," Lewis said on Glenn Clark Radio. "But his energy is what he's going to be able to distribute across the board to the team, to the city. I really adore him. I think he's amazing, and I think he's going to be one heck of a leader for Baltimore in the future to come."
Another quarterback Lewis has much affinity for was one of his greatest rivals: Peyton Manning. Lewis recently sat down with the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos star for an episode of the ESPN+ series "Peyton's Places" to discuss film strategy and their on-field chess matches against one another.
"I think us sitting down in that setting [for the show] gave us a real opportunity to express how much we respect each other," Lewis told ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "If you were a step off, he's going to cost you. Those moments are some of the moments you remember because he's such a great friend."
During Lewis' appearance on the show, he also gave Manning a lesson in how to pick steamed crabs. So how did it go?
"Not good, not good," Lewis joked to Hensley. "He's got to work on that. He's going to have to come and go through a tutorial."
Is Justice Hill the Ravens' Best Running Back?
Rookie Justice Hill continues to turn heads this preseason. After watching Hill run for a team-leading 49 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against the Packers Thursday night, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger said the fourth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State might be the best running back on a Ravens team that's loaded at the position.
"The Ravens got a bunch of backs. I'm not so sure Justice Hill isn't their best back," Baldinger said on "Baldy's Breakdowns." "He had a good game the first preseason game, but I thought he made a jump in this game. It's going to be hard to keep him off the field."
That Hill is fast is no secret – he posted the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.4) among running backs at the NFL Combine in February – but Baldinger also was impressed by his power.
"The ability just to break tackles, and balance – contact balance – and then unusual power for a guy that weighs 190 pounds," Baldinger said.
NBC Sports' Brian McNally wrote that "Hill is bashing his way into the Ravens' running back conversation."
"[On one run], Hill appeared hemmed in by Packers defenders with nowhere to go, but broke three tackles for a 14-yard run and a first down. It was a good night," McNally wrote.
Mark Ingram, who is at the top of the Ravens' depth chart at running back, has also been impressed by the strides Hill has made.
"Justice is a beast, man," Ingram said Saturday. "I always could tell that he had juice, so he's been out there making plays … and he's only going to get better. He's only going to get more comfortable, and I'm sure he'll make a lot of plays."