CLEVELAND — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson heard all of the talk leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft about him being a “run-first” player that did not trust himself to stay in the pocket and make plays with his arm, even after winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Louisville in 2016.
But in 2019, Jackson’s second season with the Ravens, he is not only proving those doubters wrong, but doing so at a level that has him at the top of a very short list of candidates for the NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
“He is killing it, obviously,” said Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, a fellow member of the 2018 NFL Draft class. “The MVP chants are well deserved. It is very obvious. It is a testament [to the season] he is having.”
Jackson has completed 245 of his 370 attempts (66.2 percent) for 2,889 yards and 33 touchdowns against just six interceptions while compiling a 112.8 quarterback rating. Additionally, Jackson has rushed for a team-leading 1,103 yards and seven touchdowns on 159 carries.
From 2018 to now, Jackson has improved his completion percentage from 58.2 to 66.2 percent.
“I think there are little things fundamentally you can do and just the raw talent that he has, all it takes is him working at his craft,” Mayfield said. “He has had a lot of improvement in the passing game, but it still starts with their run game and up front.
“They are the most physical team. They believe when they step out on the field and they establish the run game, [they] allow the play-action shots and stuff to open up. It starts with the run game, but obviously, he has worked very hard to get to where he is and he continues to improve, and that is why he is having a good season.”
The Ravens are 18-3 since naming Jackson the starting quarterback in Week 11 of 2018, and those 18 victories are the most of all NFL starters.
Jackson is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 2,500 yards and rush for another 1,000 in a single season, and his 1,103 yards on the ground are the most ever in a single season by an NFL quarterback.
Over the last seven games, Jackson has completed 70.3 percent of his attempts for 1,239 yards and 22 touchdowns against one interception for a 130.9 quarterback rating. Also, Jackson has rushed for 527 yards and four touchdowns on the back end of Baltimore’s 10-game winning streak.
“They are putting all of the pieces together, playing good on all three phases of the ball, complementary football,” Mayfield said. “They are putting pressure on teams. They are scoring fast, and you can see defensively, they are able to play really aggressively because their offense is having so much success.”
Never one to run from competition, Mayfield very much is looking forward to match up against Jackson and the Ravens with the Browns fighting to keep alive their slim postseason hopes and Baltimore needing just one win to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.
“I love playing against Lamar just because I am so familiar with him and his family,” Mayfield said. “I enjoy playing against him, but when it comes down to it, we are playing against the defense and I have to do my job and try and out-compete them.”