News & Notes 12/27: Lamar Jackson Can Break the Mold at Quarterback

122718_NewsNotes

Many have compared Lamar Jackson’s style to mobile quarterbacks of the past like Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham. However, Jackson isn’t exactly like anyone else.

Jackson leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards (605) and rushing attempts (127), in a run-first offense that is atypical for the league.

The Ravens are 5-1 since he took over as the starting quarterback, and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg believes Jackson has the talent, work ethic and personality to have long-term success, doing it with a style uniquely his own.

“I’ve been really, really fortunate,” Mornhinweg said. “I’ve coached some of the greatest quarterbacks to walk on Earth – Steve Young, Brett Favre, Mike Vick, Donovan McNabb, [Jeff] Garcia, on and on and on, Joe Flacco, Super Bowl MVP.

“Lamar Jackson is Lamar Jackson. They are all different from each other. They’re all different from each other on the field, they’re all different from each other off the field, how they go about their business, how they lead a team, they’re all different and that’s great. That’s a good thing.”

Jackson is hardly the first mobile quarterback to take the field, but he’s been running at a clip not often seen.

Jackson now has more rushing attempts in his rookie season than Vick (high of 123), Robert Griffin III (120), Randall Cunningham (118) or Colin Kaepernick (104) ever had in a single year. Cam Newton had 139 rushing attempts last season. Bobby Douglass had 141 rushing yards for the Chicago Bears in 1972.

Asked if Jackson could “break the mold,” Mornhinweg said, “Yes, there’s no question about that.”

Jackson has at least 11 rushing attempts in every start, and many have suggested he will have to reduce his carries to remain healthy long-term. Even Mornhinweg was alarmed when Jackson had 26 carries in his first start, and he has not rushed more than 18 times since.

However, Jackson’s speed is a quality that makes him difficult to defend. After a 4-5 start, the Ravens (9-6) gave the offensive keys to Jackson and they are doing whatever it takes to win. Once the season ends, the Ravens can make decisions about their offensive approach moving forward, as Jackson continues to develop.

“We’ll get into that in the offseason,” Mornhinweg said. “I’ll tell you, he’s done a great job.”

Eric Weddle Is the Conductor Keeping Opposing Quarterbacks Off Rhythm

Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle doesn’t have an interception this season, but he is a master at helping the Ravens disguise their defensive coverages.

Weddle’s ability to confuse quarterbacks was on display last weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers, when he often outwitted his friend and former teammates, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who was 23-of-37 for a season-low 181 yards and two interceptions. It was the fewest yards Rivers had thrown for since Oct. 13, 2016.

“Weddle totally messed with Philip Rivers that entire game,” Martindale said. “He did an outstanding job. He is what is making other people make plays by how he is messing with quarterbacks on not knowing coverages. He’s orchestrating that back there on the back end with it, and it’s just an invaluable piece to the defense.”

The Ravens decide each week if Weddle or inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will wear the designated speaker-equipped helmet, relying signals from Martindale to the entire defense. Mosley wore it in Los Angeles. But having two Pro Bowl players to relay defensive signals is another element to the Ravens’ success.

“I know everybody thinks he’s the quietest guy in the world, but C.J. [Mosley] is an unbelievable leader,” Martindale said.

Patrick Onwuasor Loves LA, Ravens Love How He’s Playing

The breakout game enjoyed by Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor against the Chargers earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and came at a perfect time for him. The game was played in Los Angeles not far from nearby Inglewood, Calif., where Onwuasor grew up. Martindale says that was not a coincidence.

“Playing the way that he did, I just told him, ‘Let’s make sure we think we’re in L.A. every weekend’ if that’s the way he’s going to play,’’ Martindale said.

Onwuasor has been consistently good in the second half of the season, elevating his play along with the entire defense. It has been a steady climb for Onwuasor, an undrafted third-year player from Portland State. He played wide receiver and safety in college, but has steadily improved as an NFL linebacker. Blitzing and forcing turnovers have become strengths of his, but Martindale says the best for Onwuasor is yet to come.

“Each year, you’ve just seen him progress and understand the linebacker position,” Martindale said. “That’s not an easy transition going from free safety to linebacker, because you’re taking out the time and distance for him to see things. He’s really stepping up, and he’s doing really well on special teams, too, which is a must.

“He’s been more productive in executing the defense and making plays, and obviously, that really jumped out Saturday night. I still think he’s a work in progress, but he’s a physical, fast player, and when he sees it, he goes and gets it.”

Justin Tucker’s Cleats Headed to Canton

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has become the first player in NFL history to have six consecutive seasons with at least 30 field goals made. Tucker’s cleats have been sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio to commemorate the achievement.

Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg joked about Tucker’s willingness to try any kick at any time, like when he lobbied to attempt a 65-yarder against the Chargers last week. Tucker just missed the kick, but not by much.

“Justin makes a case for every kick, regardless of how long it is,” Rosburg said. “He has this beautiful method of running right out in front of me and [Head Coach] John [Harbaugh] and taking a practice swing; you’ve probably seen it. It’s the power of suggestion in a very strong way.”

Tucker said he is just trying to let the coaches know he is always ready.

“I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything, I’m just trying to make it known that I’m available,” Tucker said. “I feel like the last situation you would want as a coach is wondering where your kicker is.”

Punter Sam Koch also reached a milestone in Saturday’s game as he booted his 1,000th career punt. In his 13th season, he’s now up to 1,002 in his career, and is still one of the league’s best.

Rosburg said it’s a testament to the kind of condition that Koch keeps his body and mind.

“As we’ve all witnessed, those of us that have been around here awhile, we’ve witnessed the evolution of Sam Koch, the punter, and the variety of different techniques that he uses to generate the kind of punts that he generates,” Rosburg said. “And it’s something that’s ongoing. It hasn’t slowed down at all.”

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