There's a phenomenon that anyone who criticizes Lamar Jackson is a "hater".
It's probably because there's been a tidal wave of doubt about whether Jackson could succeed as an NFL quarterback since he entered the league. Even after becoming the league MVP in his first full season, setting numerous records and being the winningest quarterback in NFL history at such a young age, there were always unfair jabs and moving of the goal posts that measured success.
Jackson has already proven – without a doubt – that he is not only one of the most exciting players in the NFL, but also one of the best. He is going to continue to have a ton of success.
At the same time, it's fair to say he can play better than he is right now. It's fair to say he's been part of the problem the past several weeks.
It's fair to say that Jackson has both been the answer and the problem. Without some of his miraculous scrambles and clutch plays, the Ravens don't have a chance to win in Pittsburgh. But because of some of his decisions and misfires, he's also part of why the Ravens didn't win.
That's what happens when so much of the offense revolves around Jackson. When he's on, as he was through the first five or so weeks of the season, the Ravens offense is a machine. When he's not, it's a slog.
That has always been the case with this unit because the entire operation revolves around Jackson's unique skillset, but it's true even moreso this year with so many key pieces around him on the injury list.
Those injuries have unquestionably had a ripple effect in the past three games, in which Jackson has thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three).
Ronnie Stanley's ankle surgery shook up the offensive line and removed one of the league's most reliable blindside protectors. Patrick Mekari's ankle, and now hand, injuries have further weakened the edges. Inside, Ben Cleveland's knee injury short-circuited the rookie's growth as he looked to be on track for stepping into the starting job.
The offensive line isn't all to blame either, as any line under siege from such heavy blitzes (as the Ravens have been since the Miami loss) would struggle to pick it up. With that said, the line could provide a little more time for Jackson, and every split-second matters.
The lack of an explosive running game outside of Jackson is also hampering the quarterback. The Ravens have frequently faced third-and-long the past three weeks, which is a major difference from the previous three seasons when a league-leading rushing attack put them in much more favorable positions. As the Ravens' leading rusher and passer, Jackson carries the heaviest of loads.
But even though the circumstances around Jackson are making the job much more difficult, he hasn't topped the high bar in recent weeks.
When Jackson did get rid of the ball fairly quickly against Cleveland, he made some mistakes and was intercepted a career-high four times. Last week in Pittsburgh, perhaps uneasy that he would be picked off, he hesitated too long on some throws over the middle and took a season-high seven sacks.
The league is going to keep coming with a heavy blitz until he proves he can quickly find the open target and beat it. It's on the whole unit to get that accomplished, but as the player with the ball in his hands making the split-second decisions, it falls mostly on Jackson.
For those who are blaming the Ravens' scheme, replays show there are open targets. They just have to be hit, and Jackson is certainly capable.
This doesn't have to turn into some big statement about what Jackson is as a quarterback now or in the future. Every player – even the great ones – go through rough stretches in their career. Let's not make too much of this.
Jackson is the best thing to happen to the Ravens in quite some time. He's a huge reason why the Ravens are 8-4 and atop the AFC North.
But let's accept that he's in a tough stretch, trust the work that's being put in to fix it, and believe he's also the guy that's going to get them out of it.