NFL World Reacts to Lamar Jackson's Debut
We all finally got our first chance to see Lamar Jackson in an NFL game.
The dynamic quarterback made his debut in last night's Hall of Fame game and he naturally attracted the bulk of the national attention. SiriusXM's Ross Tucker summed things up best just before Jackson even took the field.
Overreactions are expected at this point of the summer, particularly for a first-round quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner. So, with that caveat in mind, let's dive into some of the reaction from Jackson's first game …
He looked like a rookie: If there was one overarching theme from the media to describe Jackson's performance, it was that he looked like a rookie. He had some good moments, followed by miscues. That's the case for most rookies at this stage, and Jackson is no different.
"Jackson rushed five times for 28 yards, but his passing looked much as it has on the practice field this summer – inconsistent," wrote Bo Smoka from PressBox Online.
"Jackson played much like he has practiced in training camp," ESPN added. "He threw the ball better when on the run and struggled on throws outside the numbers. His biggest misstep was trying to hit Jaleel Scott on the sideline. He telegraphed the throw and was interrupted by Doran Grant."
He's not ready to be a starter: The Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is the team's starting quarterback in 2018, but that hasn't stopped the media chatter about Jackson pushing Flacco for that spot. National media outlets have speculated endlessly about Jackson taking over the starting job this year, but his performance Monday showed he still has plenty of work to do before stepping into a starting job.
His athleticism is eye catching: For as much as Jackson still has to learn, he has skills that can't be taught. His combination of speed and agility is rare, and his 10-yard first-down scramble showed off those traits.
Longtime NFL reporter Don Banks, who covers the league for Patriots.com, was impressed with that part of his game.
"The rookie is fun to watch in the open field, and he's going to break the ankles of a defender or two this season with his quick cuts and moves," Banks wrote. "The rest of the Ravens squad just oohs and ahhs when he gets loose, because athletes always recognize elite athletes when they see one."
Ravens are taking the right approach with him: The Ravens have put Jackson in a position where this season will likely be a developmental year. Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News believes the preseason opener showed that the Ravens "did the right thing in drafting him in the first round — and then choosing to bring him along slowly."
"The Ravens saw much of what they should have expected from Jackson, including a little of his flair for the unexpected," Iyer added. "In that sense, his flawed debut was perfect for the purposes of his development."
Robert Griffin III Shows He Can Still Play
Jackson was the headliner Thursday, but Robert Griffin III had a strong opening act.
After spending a year away from football, Griffin made his return to game action and showed glimpses of the ability that made him the No. 2-overall pick and Rookie of the Year in 2012. Griffin finished 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards with a touchdown and interception (which hit off wide receiver Breshad Perriman's hands), and added three carries for nine yards.
Banks wrote that Griffin's preseason is an audition for all 32 teams in the league.
"Griffin would love to make the Ravens roster, but in reality, his work is on display this month in an attempt to catch on anywhere in the NFL," Banks wrote. "Baltimore hasn't kept three quarterbacks on its roster since 2009, and yet Griffin has a chance to stick if the Ravens at the end of the preseason deem Jackson not quite ready to handle the important backup role."
Smolka also speculated about the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster because of how both Griffin and Jackson performed.
"Griffin was listed above Jackson on the depth chart going into this game, and they played that way," Smolka wrote. "Does this make the Ravens any more likely to keep three quarterbacks?"
This is the perfect time to remind you to sign up for our You Pick the Team contest and submit your best guess for who makes the 53-man roster.
Kamalei Correa Helps Himself
The player who put together the best game of the evening was third-year outside linebacker Kamalei Correa.
He flew to the football and showed good instincts coupled with playmaking ability. Correa finished the night with six tackles, three sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defensed.
"The Ravens hope to unlock his potential by moving him back outside, where he was projected to play coming out of college," wrote Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun. "They want to see him play more instinctively, something he did throughout the first half against the Bears."
Correa is a high draft pick who entered training camp on the bubble. He's competing at one of the most crowded positions on the roster, but he'll find himself on the 53-man squad if he continues to make plays like he did Thursday night.
"His instinctive, aggressive play caused plenty of problems for the Bears' offense, and illustrated why the Ravens don't want to give up on their 2016 second-round pick out of Boise State," wrote NFL.com's Austin Knoblauch.
Challenges Evident With New Helmet Rule
Last night's game was also the preseason for the officials, and it was the first time they had to implement the league's new rule that assesses a 15-yard penalty for leading with the helmet while making a tackle.
Correa, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and defensive back Bennett Jackson were flagged for hits when leading with their heads. How the rule gets officiated during the regular season is still murky but starting safety Eric Weddle tweeted after the game that the referees are being over-aggressive with the calls during the preseason.
The new rule is certainly something to track over the rest of the preseason as coaches around the league try to figure out how to coach their players to avoid the flags.
"New questions open up about how players -- specifically safeties -- will perform their jobs if they are penalized on seemingly every big hit," wrote NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
Ray Lewis Says C.J. Mosley is NFL's Best Middle Linebacker
C.J. Mosley can't get much higher praise than this.
On the weekend that Ray Lewis gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Baltimore's legendary defender said that the player who followed in his footsteps is the best linebacker in the NFL.
"I would love for you to show me a better middle linebacker in the game than C.J. Mosley," Lewis told ESPN. "That's from a pure football instinct level of being a general and always ending up in the right place."
Mosley is entering his fifth NFL season and he's made the Pro Bowl in three of those first four years. He's grown into one of Baltimore's defensive leaders and ESPN pointed out that he's had a historically stellar start to his career.
"Statistically, there's an argument that the start of Mosley's career has been just as impressive as Lewis," ESPN wrote. "In the first four seasons of their careers, Lewis made more tackles and sacks and Mosley recorded more interceptions and forced fumbles. They both reached the same number of Pro Bowls."
Mosley is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and he's said several times that he wants to stay in Baltimore throughout his career.