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“I think wide receiver,” former team executive Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst, said when asked what position Jackson should play. “Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand, and that’s rare for wide receivers.”
Do you remember when they said he wasn’t accurate?
Do you remember when an anonymous coach in the ACC said Jackson had no chance to play in the NFL? “None,” the coach said. “He can’t make the throws and can’t read coverages. He’s not going to have a chance.”
Remember all of that?
Fast-forward to now. There are only two quarterbacks in the NFL who are currently better than Jackson. It’s Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. That’s it. That’s all.
It’s not Dak Prescott.
It’s not Aaron Rodgers.
It’s not Jared Goff or Deshaun Watson. It’s not Carson Wentz.
It’s Brady, the best ever, and Mahomes, the MVP. And it could be argued that with the numbers Jackson is putting up in his first full season as the Ravens‘ starting quarterback, it’s not even them. It could be argued that no player is better.
The stats are staggering. Two weeks ago, against Miami, Jackson threw five touchdowns—and only three incompletions—on 20 passes. But since that was the Dolphins, one of the great dumpster fires in football history, some people called those numbers a fluke.
Then came Sunday. The Ravens won 23-17 over the Cardinals, and Jackson went 24-of-37 for 272 yards and two touchdowns passing—and had 16 carries for 120 yards.
“Y’all watched Lamar make great throws all day from the pocket,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said, via the team’s website. “He’s improved dramatically there. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He’s staying in there and throwing it. He can beat you that way, and beat you with his legs. He’s going to be hard to handle for anybody.”
In two games, Jackson is a stunning 41-of-57 passing for 596 yards and seven passing touchdowns—the most through two games in franchise history—with 19 carries for another 126 yards.
Against the Cardinals, he became the first player in regular-season history to have at least 120 rushing yards and 250 passing yards in the same game. (Colin Kaepernick had 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards in a postseason contest.)
Jackson also became only the sixth quarterback to rush for at least 100 yards and pass for 250 yards or more in a game. The others to do it were Cam Newton (three times), Kaepernick, Marcus Mariota, Michael Vick and Russell Wilson.
Not bad company at all.
The fact is, he presents one of the greatest challenges a defense faces today.
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“It’s just going to be a real conundrum for them,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of his quarterback’s impact on opposing teams. “They’re going to have to figure it out for themselves.”
Jackson is math. He’s calculus. He’s the event horizon of a gravity well.
We knew Jackson could run, and we knew his ability to do so made him dangerous. But his passing, the thing so many questioned, is what’s made him lethal.
That’s what has made it so great to see him light up the league, that he’s sticking it to the football dunderheads who see players like him and complain that he doesn’t check whatever archaic boxes he was supposed to check.
Yes, it’s early, and yes, neither the Dolphins nor Cardinals are a good team. But Jackson is so good, he could do this kind of damage to a lot of teams.
He’s a true multiverse threat.
He has the deep-ball accuracy of Russell Wilson, which is already turning into devastating chemistry with rookie Hollywood Brown.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Lamar and Hollywood are a PROBLEM.
He has the running ability of Steve Young.
Baltimore Ravens @Ravens
That high step by @Lj_era8 to pick up the first down. 😏 https://t.co/bOwUsZ3ZPz
And to top it off, he has an attitude—maybe from a chip on his shoulder after facing so many questions out of college—that reminds you of a young Brady.
This isn’t an overreaction to a small sample size. Jackson showed this kind of potential when he became the starter down the stretch last season. Now what we’re seeing is something special.
If there is such a thing as watching a player take the quarterback position and actively evolve it, this is what Jackson is doing.
“Not bad for a running back,” Jackson said after the Miami game.
Not bad at all.
Do you remember when people said Lamar Jackson wouldn’t be a professional quarterback?
He was too small. Or too inaccurate. Or too whatever.
Now, he’s just too…good.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.