Late for Work 9/28: Lamar Jackson Has Adopted 'True Gunslinger Mentality'

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QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson Leads NFL Air Yards Per Attempt by Wide Margin

We're all accustomed to Lamar Jackson putting up record-breaking, eye-popping statistics with his legs. Through three games this season, he's doing it with his arm as well.

The Ravens said before the season began that they wanted to put more emphasis on improving the deep passing game, and they've been true to their word.

"After three games, Jackson's average distance of target is a shocking 12.3 yards per attempt, per Next Gen Stats," Baltimore Beatdown's Spencer Schultz wrote. "Jackson leads the NFL in distance per target by a large margin — 2.6 yards further than the next passer (Josh Allen at 9.7 yards average distance of target). For reference, that's the same distance (2.6 yards per attempt) that separate Allen and the 25th-ranked passer (Justin Herbert).

"The record for highest air yards per attempt in an NFL season dating back to 2016 (when Next Gen Stats started tracking the metric) is 11.2 yards, which Deshaun Watson posted in 2017. Jackson's intended air yards per attempt in Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions was an absurd 19.3 yards per attempt. That was the highest single game average distance of target posted since Next Gen Stats started recording the metric."

Jackson isn't just throwing more deep balls; he's completing them at an impressive rate.

"Jackson attempted 12 passes over 20 yards in Week 3, connecting on five of them, while there were drops or incompletions of accurate passes on an additional four," Schultz wrote. "Jackson currently leads the NFL in yards per completion (14.4) [and] completed air yards per attempt (9.1)."

Jackson also leads the NFL in Next Gen Stats' "Air Yards to the Sticks," which shows the amount of air yards ahead or behind the first down marker on all pass attempts. The metric indicates if the passer is attempting his passes past the first-down marker, or if he is relying on his skill position players to make yards after the catch.

Jackson is averaging 2.6 yards past the first down marker per throw and is only one of 10 quarterbacks to average throws past the first-down marker.

He is on pace to throw for 4,312 yards this season, which would shatter his career high of 3,127 yards in his 2019 MVP season.

"While Jackson's receivers have yet to bail him out of any questionable decisions pushing the ball downfield, he's continued to consistently push the ball regardless," Schultz wrote. "He's adopted a true 'gunslinger' mentality, while displaying poise in the pocket."

Meanwhile, Jackson continues to run the ball at an elite level. He's fourth in the league in rushing and is on pace to run for 1,422 yards, which (in a 17-game season) would break his own record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206), which he set in 2019.

"Jackson's aggression downfield, paired with the lethal ability he possesses when he decides to scramble, puts defenses in a conundrum," Schultz wrote. "If Jackson's receivers can elevate and start to 'make him right' when he needs it, the Ravens offense could lead the NFL in scoring for the second time in three years."

Is Justin Tucker a Better Kicker Than Patrick Mahomes Is a Quarterback?

How many times have you watched Justin Tucker's record-setting, game-winning, 66-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions? The correct answer, no matter how high the number, is "not enough."

Fans and media members are still buzzing about Tucker's incredible feat (and foot).

"When I woke up on Sunday morning, I could have never fathomed that I was about to watch something that I would never forget for the rest of my life," Press Box's Glenn Clark wrote. " … A completely random Sunday afternoon just became an eternal, iconic Baltimore sports moment. I'll never be able to stop watching."

The Ringer's Ben Solak wrote that Tucker is the Patrick Mahomes of place-kicking and pondered if Tucker is even better at what he does than the Chiefs star quarterback is at what he does.

"I'm not sure that he's actually better than Mahomes, because it's a lot easier for me to understand just how good Mahomes is at quarterbacking than just how good Tucker is at kicking," Solak wrote. "But he's arguably a better kicker than Mahomes is a quarterback, and even if you don't agree with that, you have to admit he's … underrated? A cheat code? Whatever you want to call him, he holds one of the league's coolest records now, and I imagine that it will stand for quite some time."

When it comes to Tucker, there's simply no such thing as hyperbole. In NFL.com's Adam Schein's "fact or fiction" column, he wrote that Tucker being the best kicker ever "is a BIG fact."

"No offense to Adam Vinatieri, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in his own right, but Tucker is a freaking machine," Schein wrote. " … This is just what Justin does. What a stud. And he remains the most accurate kicker in NFL history, so what are we even talking about here?"

ESPN's Jamison Hensley agrees, and made a detailed case for why Tucker is the GOAT.

"That booming kick just checked the last box for Tucker, putting him squarely in a class by himself," Hensley wrote. "From elite accuracy to perfection in the clutch to — now — record leg strength, Tucker's resume is unmatched among kickers, including the likes of four-time Super Bowl-winner Adam Vinatieri and seven-time Pro Bowler Morten Andersen.

"First thought when Tucker's 66-yard field goal doinked in the air, then over the crossbar, to make NFL history: Justin Tucker is going to the Hall of Fame one day," NBC Sports' Peter King wrote.

Next Gen Stats Show How Unlikely Ravens' Win Over Lions Was

It goes without saying that the Ravens' 19-17 win over the Lions was improbable, but Next Gen Stats broke down just how improbable it really was.

After Ryan Santoso's 35-yard field goal gave Detroit a 17-16 lead with 1:04 remaining and the Ravens out of timeouts, Baltimore's win probability was 42.9 percent.

The Ravens' win probability dropped to 15.2 percent as they faced fourth-and-19 at their 16-yard-line with 26 seconds left. ESPN gave the Ravens virtually no chance at that point, as it calculated the Lions' win percentage to be 99.9 percent.

Jackson's 36-yard completion to Sammy Watkins had a completion probability of 40.1 percent, according to Next Gen Stats. The field goal probability on Tucker's kick was 10.4 percent, the lowest probability of any successful field goal in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016).

Ravens Are Right to Remain Confident in Marquise Brown

After Marquise "Hollywood" Brown had three critical drops against the Lions, his teammates said they still have confidence in him. Their confidence is not unfounded.

"Brown has been through a stretch like this before," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "He came out of it last season and has been one of the team's best players since. The Ravens should have the confidence that Brown will figure it out."

Hensley noted that Brown dropping deep passes was atypical.

"Brown's drops totaled 97 air yards and all came on throws of 25-plus yards, including a perfectly thrown one in the end zone," Hensley wrote. "This was uncharacteristic for Brown, who had no drops on 32 such targets in his career. But by the third drop, it was evident it was in his head."

Zrebiec said the Ravens should not hesitate to continue having Brown play a major role in the offense.

"Brown is still the offense's top playmaker outside of Jackson," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens need to continue to focus on getting him the ball. Benching him or limiting his role in the offense is only going to hurt a team that needs Brown's big-play ability."

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