Lamar Jackson Says He Just Has to 'Be Lamar'
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh made headlines earlier this week for saying he "would bet the over" when asked how quarterback Lamar Jackson's "pitch count" as a runner this season would compare to Cam Newton's career-high 139 rushing attempts.
Jackson, however, cautioned against taking that bet.
"I've been throwing a lot, way more than running, so I don't know," Jackson said with a laugh during an appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show" yesterday.
When asked in a follow-up question by Eisen if running the ball as much as he did last season (an NFL single-season record 147 rushing attempts, including 119 in his seven starts) is sustainable, Jackson doubled down on his belief that he will not run as frequently.
"Absolutely. I put on weight," Jackson said, regarding the sustainability. "But I don't think I'll be running as much as I did last year. … This is going to be totally different."
What seems to be a sure thing is that the Ravens' offense this season is going to be unlike any other in the league. The word "revolutionary" has even been thrown around to describe it.
"We're talking about revolutionizing the offense, and clearly you have the pieces to do it. How's it going to look?" Eisen asked Jackson. "How will this operate in [the] NFL?"
"I can't talk about it," Jackson replied. "Each and every day we're looking better and better in what we're doing, whether it's RPO, running the ball with our backs, or the pass game, it's all looking incredible right now. But you're going to have to see when it's game time. Practice is going to be practice; games are going to be games."
Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead IV gave a similar response to Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor.
"I think we're going to give defenses a lot of looks, a lot of things to prepare for," Snead said. "It's not traditional. We have some traditional stuff in, but then we'll have different triple-option stuff, play-action, run-influenced break out-of-the-pocket type stuff. It's just a lot to prepare for [on] defense."
In an article under the headline, "Will Lamar Jackson and the Ravens revolutionize the NFL offense?" ESPN’s Jamison Hensely wrote: "The reality is the team won't limit Jackson. The core of this outside-the-box offense is Jackson running the ball (or, at least, the threat of him doing so). There will be times when Jackson runs only five times per game. There will be other games in which he jump-cuts and spins around defenses 20 times.
"How many times will Jackson carry the ball? The correct answer is however many times it takes for Baltimore to win."
Jackson told Eisen he is excited about leading an offense tailored to his skill set and appreciates the faith the organization has in him.
"I just love how my team believes in me," Jackson said. "They trust me. They're behind me 100 percent. I just have to do what I always do. Play ball. Be Lamar."
Roster Hopeful Has Compelling Story
Bennett Jackson, who is attempting to make the Ravens' roster as a safety, is not a name familiar to many Baltimore fans, but he certainly has a compelling story, which was chronicled in an excellent piece by The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
Jackson, who was drafted as a cornerback out of Notre Dame in the sixth round by the New York Giants in 2014, spent his rookie year on the practice squad. He switched to safety in 2015 and was set to become a starter. However, Jackson suffered a torn ACL in his right knee with a few minutes remaining in the Giants' second preseason game.
"The only reason he was even in the game that late was because the Giants were short on healthy safeties," Zrebiec wrote. "He fought back the tears as he left the field, knowing that his season was over. What he didn't know, couldn't have known, is that he'd spend the next 1,439 days working just to get that close again.
"Five years and three months [after being drafted], he still hasn't been on a 53-man roster or played in an NFL regular-season game."
Jackson was released by the Giants before the start of the 2016 season. He would spend the next 16 months out of the NFL, waiting for his phone to ring. Eventually, the Ravens were one of three teams to call, and they signed him to a reserve/future deal in January 2018.
"He was in the best shape of his career last July, carrying only six percent body fat," Zrebiec wrote. "He flashed early in training camp and had three tackles and a sack while playing extensively in the Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears.
"But not long after, Jackson was shut down by a sports hernia that required surgery. He was ultimately cut by the Ravens and then re-signed to the practice squad in November. That's where he ended the season."
Now Jackson, who turns 28 next month, is competing for a spot at one of the Ravens' deepest positions.
"The depth charts and roster projections aren't in his favor, but he isn't paying that any attention," Zrebiec wrote. "He's consumed by each rep he gets, each practice, each defensive and special teams meeting, each opportunity to prove he belongs. What some players consider tedious is everything to Jackson, who knows all too well the feeling of football being taken away."
Jackson told Zrebiec: "I want to make the team, but I want to do more than that. I want to be a playmaker, something I know I can be. You just have to wait for your time. When your time comes, or your number gets called, you have to go out there and do what you do."
Were Ravens Underrepresented in NFL's Top 100?
Despite the Ravens' winning tradition and status as defending AFC North champions, their representation on the annual list of the top 100 players in the NFL (as voted on by the players themselves) was underwhelming -- again.
Two players who were with the Ravens last season -- linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Eric Weddle -- made the list at Nos. 71 and 100, respectively. The only player on the current Ravens roster to make the list was running back Mark Ingram II, who was with the New Orleans Saints last season, at No. 80.
Last year, the only Raven to make the list was Mosley (No. 98), and two years ago guard Marshal Yanda (No. 43) was the team's lone representative.
As The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shafer pointed out, the number of players a team has on the list often does not correlate to how well the team performs.
"Of the five other teams with just two players in the NFL Top 100, none finished better than 7-9 last season," Shafer wrote. "Overall, the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants combined to go 26-44.
"The Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans all had three top-100 players. None made the playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings finished with five, and the Pittsburgh Steelers six. Both were sent packing after Week 17."