Late for Work 9/4: Ed Reed Says Lamar Jackson Has the 'Heart of a Defender'

090420-LFW
Left: QB Lamar Jackson; Right: Hall of Famer Ed Reed

Ed Reed on Lamar Jackson: 'He Has the Heart of a Defender'

Hall of Famer Ed Reed paid Lamar Jackson the highest of compliments when he said the quarterback "has the heart of a defender."

"He's the ultimate athlete," Reed said on "Good Morning Football." "I think he could've played safety."

Jackson did play some safety when in high school. He laid some big hits in his day.

Speaking as a former safety, Reed, who played against the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, said that Jackson "is a threat you don't want to see ... I can promise you that."

Reed, who was making the media rounds to promote the "Snicker's Hungriest Player" program, also appeared on Baltimore Beatdown's podcast. He was asked to reflect on what it felt like to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII in his hometown of New Orleans.

"Man, heaven must be like this. There's a song that comes to mind, there's a feeling that comes to mind, because that's got to be the ultimate, like walking through the pearly gates," Reed said.

"How do you go from being born in New Orleans to playing in the Superdome the day before, two days before [Hurricane] Katrina hit? The last team to play in the Superdome before Katrina. The first team to play in the Superdome in the Super Bowl after Katrina with the Baltimore Ravens. That feeling man, I don't really think people can really grasp being from a city and going back and playing there."

Lamar Jackson's Follow-Up to MVP Season Among NFL's Most Compelling Storylines

At this time last year, a hot topic around the NFL was whether the Ravens' Jackson-led offense would revolutionize the sport. After a record-setting season that culminated in Jackson being named the second unanimous MVP in league history, the question now is: What's next for the 23-year-old quarterback?

It's one of the NFL's most compelling storylines in 2020, according to ESPN's Bill Barnwell. Barnwell is not among the pundits who believe Jackson might regress, but he does think Jackson could be in a less favorable situation than he was last year.

"Jackson was a force of nature in the regular season before a second consecutive playoff loss, but … there's nothing suggesting that he is about to suddenly fall off a cliff or get figured out," Barnwell wrote. "My concerns are more about the players around the star quarterback; the Ravens were the league's healthiest offense by adjusted games lost in 2019 and won't have star guard Marshal Yanda, who retired after the loss to Tennessee."

Injuries are a concern for every team, and it's undeniable that Yanda is a huge loss. However, Jackson has more weapons this season, namely rookies J.K. Dobbins, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II. He also has a healthy Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who aadppears poised for a breakout season in his second year, and Miles Boykin, who also is expected to take a big step forward in Year 2.

Barnwell also raised the oft-discussed question of whether Jackson's style of playing makes him more susceptible to injury.

"Jackson does an incredible job of avoiding unnecessary hits, but any quarterback who runs the ball 11 times per game is going to take more contact and be more of an injury risk than someone who sits in the pocket and gets the ball out quickly," Barnwell wrote.

It's a fair point. As noted in Late for Work earlier this week, a study done by Sports Info Solutions found that the risk of a quarterback getting injured on a designed run is only one for every 236 plays, but by running the ball substantially more than any other quarterback, Jackson could be more of an injury risk because of the sheer volume of his running plays.

Barnwell concluded that Jackson is headed for another big season.

"Jackson also won't throw touchdowns on 9% of his pass attempts again given that it was the second-best touchdown rate since the merger, but the Heisman Trophy winner could be about as valuable as he was in 2019 if he continues to post a passer rating of 113 over more attempts," Barnwell wrote. "Even if he doesn't win MVP, he's not going anywhere."

Of course, the ultimate goal for Jackson isn't to win another MVP award; it's to win a Super Bowl. To do that, he first must win a playoff game.

"There it is, the great looming question that Jackson has no way to answer until January (pandemic willing)," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote. "He has entered two playoff games as the quarterback of a favored team. And the Ravens have lost those two home contests by a combined score of 51-29, with Jackson committing multiple turnovers in each. Can he put those disappointments behind him as he did questions about his passing mechanics and ability to withstand hits?"

Based on Jackson's talent and drive, it seems unwise to bet against him.

Ravens Continue to Be a Popular Pick to Win Super Bowl

The Ravens were the second-most-popular pick to win the Super Bowl in voting by NFL.com's panel of 35 analysts. Baltimore received six votes to finish behind the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (16 votes).

The only other teams to receive multiple votes were the New Orleans Saints (four), Pittsburgh Steelers (two) and San Francisco 49ers (two). Four analysts picked the Ravens to lose the Super Bowl.

Here's what those who picked the Ravens to capture their third Lombardi Trophy said:

Brian Baldinger: Ravens over Saints. "The Ravens win Super Bowl LV in the same stadium [Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.) where they won their first title versus the New York Giants many moons ago. I think Baltimore got better this offseason with key acquisitions of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Patrick Queen. The Ravens have the best kicking game in the NFL and a style of offense that is difficult to defend with the reigning MVP at the QB position. Lamar Jackson continues to improve his passing, especially his deep-ball throws to guys like Hollywood Brown, who is fully healthy. Baltimore has it all."

Ali Bhanpuri: Ravens over Seahawks. "After sprinting past [Patrick] Mahomes' merciless Chiefs in the AFC title game, Lamar fulfills the modern-day three-year plan the Kansas City QB perfected:

Year 1: Excite your fan base.

Year 2: Win MVP

Year 3: Win Super Bowl MVP.

Summer after Year 3: $$$

Russell Wilson vs. Lamar Jackson — the first Black QB1s to go head to head in a Super Bowl is —as incredible a matchup live as it is on paper.

Jeffri Chadiha: Ravens over Saints. "The Saints finally break through after three straight years of playoff frustration. However, they run into a loaded Ravens team hell-bent on making up for a missed opportunity at a championship in 2019."

Chase Goodbread: Ravens over Saints. "Lamar Jackson further cements his place among the NFL's most dynamic quarterbacks with a masterful performance, and rookie LB Patrick Queen provides a big boost to the Baltimore defense in his first year. Ravens win it, 27-20."

Marc Ross: Ravens over Saints. "After two years of playoff frustrations, Lamar Jackson leads the Ravens to victory and is named Super Bowl MVP. A last-second Justin Tucker field goal sends the devastated Saints home on the final play for the fourth year in a row."

Marc Sessler: Ravens over Cowboys. "After edging the Chiefs in a double-overtime AFC Championship Game thriller, the Ravens topple Dallas in a romp that triggers a distant sculptor to get busy on John Harbaugh's HOF bust."

Ravens Defense Is No. 2 in Pro Football Focus Rankings

As a testament to how strong the Ravens are on both sides of the ball, the defense was ranked second in the league by Pro Football Focus, which is the same ranking PFF gave Baltimore's offense (as noted in yesterday's Late for Work). No other team ranked in the top five in both categories.

"There was only one glaring flaw with the 2019 Ravens: their pass-rush unit. As a whole, it ranked 27th in pass-rush grade and 30th in pressure rate on non-blitzes," PFF's Anthony Treash wrote. "Baltimore made a point of bolstering the line this offseason by trading for Calais Campbell, signing Derek Wolfe and drafting both Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr.

"Campbell alone will vastly improve the Ravens' defensive front. He may not be an elite pass-rusher — he's primarily a run-stuffer, and a very effective one at that — but he is still productive in that facet. He's now had four straight years of 90.0-plus PFF grades, which is a clear upgrade over anything Michael Pierce did in Baltimore."

Treash added that outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who had a career-high 9.5 sacks last season, "could have an even better 2020 campaign with Campbell eating up blocks on the line." Treash also had high praise for the Ravens' cornerback duo of All-Pros Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters.

"Humphrey has been among the best man-coverage cornerbacks in the NFL since joining the league, ranking sixth in forced incompletion rate on his man-coverage targets over that span," Treash wrote. "As for Peters, he had the best stretch of play of his career once he joined the Ravens in Week 7 last year. From that point on (including postseason), he tied for the second-best coverage grade at the position."

The 49ers defense took the top spot in PFF's ranking, and the Steelers were No. 3.

Saints Reportedly Pushing Hard to Sign Jadeveon Clowney

It appears that Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney may not be a free agent much longer, and for once the Ravens are not being mentioned as one of the top candidates to land the former No. 1-overall pick.

The Saints are sending an "all-out blitz" to sign Clowney, reported NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, who added that Clowney has spoken multiple times to Head Coach Sean Payton about playing in New Orleans.

The Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks have maintained interest in Clowney, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

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