Lamar Jackson says Cincinnati Bengals defenders were yelling at him during his first NFL start, trying to scare him and get in his head.
“All I know is [the Bengals players] kept saying, ‘We’re going to hurt you! We’re going to hurt you! This is the NFL!’ and this and that,” the Ravens’ rookie quarterback said.
Jackson didn’t seem at all bothered or think anything was odd about that. In fact, he said he just laughed.
Jackson ran 27 times for 117 yards in his first career NFL start. Three of those plays were kneel-downs, but it was still the most carries for a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
While it was effective in delivering a 24-21 Ravens win – something that should be celebrated – it’s also left fans and pundits questioning how sustainable that model can be.
Head Coach John Harbaugh and Jackson have been clear. The intention was not to have him run that much against the Bengals and 27 carries is not a formula they want to replicate (unless absolutely necessary) for long-term health and success.
So what’s the sweet spot?
Part of what makes Jackson great is his playmaking ability with his legs. After all, the Heisman Trophy winner ran for 4,132 yards in his three seasons at Louisville and has breakneck quickness and speed that should be utilized.
But as the Bengals defenders said, this isn’t college anymore. It’s the pros. And quarterbacks who run a lot have, in the past, also been hurt a lot.
Jackson said he iced up with trainers in the days following the game, but “didn’t get banged up, which is cool on that part.” He said his body feels good.
“But 27 rushes – I didn’t know about it until after the game. I was like, ‘I ran 27 times?’ I was shocked myself,” Jackson said. “So I was like, ‘Dang, maybe I do have to get down.’ They were saying, ‘Oh, he’s going to get killed,’ this and that. Oh man. We won the game – that’s all that matters, man.”
Jackson has run all his life and doesn’t have a long injury history. Of course, all it takes is one, but he’s shown a deftness to avoid big hits. The question is whether he can continue to play the way he always has and still stay healthy in the NFL.
“I was trying to hit the ground and they caught me sometimes,” he said. “But yes, I don’t like to take big hits – that’s not me. I’m not a running back.
“I try to get down when I can. I try to extend the play, too. We’re trying to score every drive [that] we’re out there. We’re not just trying to get the first down. We’re trying to score three points, seven points. That’s our job.”
Asked whether backup quarterback Robert Griffin III has talked to him about sliding instead of diving to save his body, Jackson simply said, “No, we good.” Should he slide more?
“Sometimes,” Jackson said. “Sometimes there could be touchdowns too, and I’m sliding for no reason.”
Because he’s such a big name, and a rookie, and because of his style of play, Jackson will likely continue to hear a lot of trash talk – especially if he keeps winning. But just like he’s not scared of a little contact, he doesn’t plan to cower to trash talk either.
“[They try to] get in my head, talking crap – that’s not going to work,” Jackson said. “I play football – that’s what it’s all about. It’s about winning games, putting your team in great situations. It’s not about talking trash, who can talk trash the most. I don’t do that – I play ball.”
Jackson Got Congrats Texts From Quarterback Pioneers After First Win
Jackson’s phone was probably blowing up with congratulatory messages after his first NFL win, but two stood out to the rookie.
Former NFL quarterbacks Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham both reached out to Jackson via text. Williams was the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Cunningham broke the traditional quarterback model as a dual-threat passer/runner.
“Those are the guys who paved the way for us,” Jackson said. “Without those guys, we probably wouldn’t be in situations that we are [in today]. So, hats off to those guys. Them congratulating me? From the GOATs? Yeah, that’s cool.”
Jackson said he had spoken on the phone with Williams and Cunningham previously. He spoke with Williams during the pre-draft process about the challenges he would face as a dual-threat African-American quarterback.
Gus Edwards Has a Nickname and Deceptive Speed
Rookie running back Gus Edwards rumbled for 115 yards on just 17 carries in Sunday’s win over the Bengals and could be a big part of Baltimore’s offense moving forward.
While he’s a soft-spoken guy who isn’t going to toot his own horn, his teammates have given him a new nickname, at least from his quarterback.
“‘Gus the Bus.’ That’s it right there,” Jackson said. “It rhymes too! We love it. ‘Gus the Bus,’ baby.”
Edwards’ 6.8 yards per carry and 5.4 yards per rush after initial contact were the most of any running back in the NFL in Week 11, per Pro Football Focus. He forced eight missed tackles on just 17 runs.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound undrafted rookie has a physical north-south running style that compliments Jackson’s quickness, but don’t think that means Edwards is just a bruiser.
The Rutgers product ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at his pro day, which is faster than New England Patriots running back Sony Michel and tied with Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, two of the top tailbacks in this year’s draft.
“Size and speed is a good combination. He definitely has speed,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He has good acceleration, he runs hard, he’s a north/south guy, and he’s 240-plus.”
Jackson said he was so impressed by the way Edwards was running that he got caught just watching him instead of continuing to execute his fakes.
“I probably could have [gotten] him some more touchdowns or more yards, but I was just so hype,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘Man he just running through people!’ He was breaking tackles. He just wanted to be fed.”
Was the threat of Jackson running what helped Edwards get so many yards? As the duo at the center of the run-pass option, they make each other better if they play well.
“Gus is just a good running back,” Jackson said. “I’m not taking credit for him. He did his thing out there. He ran for 100-and-some yards – I didn’t do that. He broke tackles – I didn’t do that. He did. ‘Gus the Bus,’ man.”