Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are currently in a rut. They’ve lost three out of the last four games including a demoralizing loss at home to the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens have another loss looming to the Pittsburgh Steelers to close out November. There is a real chance that Baltimore ends November just one game above .500 and on the outside of the AFC playoff picture. It is a case of the Lamar Jackson market correction being overzealous following the 2019 season.
Naturally, much of the blame will land on the shoulders of Jackson. He has not played particularly well in any of Baltimore’s losses, and he will receive much of the blame as a starting quarterback. In those four losses, Jackson turned the ball over a total of seven times including four turnovers against Pittsburgh. For the Ravens, it seems as if the sky is falling, but it did not have to be this way.
The Lamar Jackson Market Correction
Jackson is still a solid NFL quarterback. He may not have an elite arm, but he has a solid enough arm and can generally put the ball in catchable locations. He also adds the threat of his running, although he is rarely running against man coverage this season. Moving forward, he may look to scramble more often as his playmakers continue to be unreliable. The Ravens have had multiple drops in five games in 2020 (including the January playoff game), and the Ravens have lost four of those five games including against the Titans twice.
If Jackson cannot trust the likes of Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews to reliably get open and secure passes, he can get rattled in the pocket and begin to force things. Against the New England Patriots, Jackson had an ugly interception down the right sideline, trying to force the issue. Jackson had another ball that should have been intercepted by Devin McCourty over the middle, but it slipped through the safety’s hand. Jackson only made two relative mistakes all night.
Similarly, Jackson made few mistakes against the Titans, only throwing one questionable pass (which was intercepted).
Development Since Rookie Season
If one ignores 2019, Jackson’s development from 2018 to 2020 would please many people. Had Jackson’s 2020 season replaced a 2019 season, the media would not shred Jackson. It is a testament to how well Jackson played in 2019 that the media is raking him over the coals for the Ravens not living up to the obscene standards that were placed on them heading into the season.
In a way, the media laid out a self-fulfilling prophecy that said that if Lamar Jackson does not win a Super Bowl, he would be a disappointment.
Think back to the 2018 NFL Draft. The Ravens traded up to the 32nd pick to select Jackson. Jackson was the fifth quarterback taken off the board that April day. Of the other four, only Josh Allen seems to be a halfway decent player in the NFL now. Allen is an MVP candidate while Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield have been quite poor over their three seasons. Josh Rosen has been a third-stringer in 2020.
Even the biggest supporters of Lamar Jackson on draft day would be happy with his 2020 season. However, the perfect storm of 2019 set out unrealistic expectations for Jackson moving forward. Jackson’s career will be compared to his 2019 season, perhaps unfairly. Peaks are nothing new in the NFL. Dan Marino and Tom Brady had incredibly great seasons and never were quite able to match said seasons. Marino never matched his legendary 1984 season, and Brady never matched his 2007 season. They were the high watermarks of a Hall of Fame career.
If one looks to Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes is going through a similar issue with his career. His first season as a starter resulted in 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. Mahomes may never reach those plateaus again, but it is not a knock on him. Everything went right for 16 games, and he posted historic numbers.
Jackson falls into the same boat.
Time to Get Back on Track
If one looks at Jackson season by itself, it is a reasonable season for a third-year quarterback to have. He has had some solid games including a win over the Cleveland Browns and a good game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he has had a couple of bad games against talent defenses like the Steelers and the Patriots.
However, people get wrapped up in the season being worse than his 2019 season. But Jackson and the Ravens have not experienced the luck they had in 2019 especially with injuries and the injuries of other teams. In 2019, the Ravens won the AFC North by commanding six games in large part due to Pittsburgh not having Ben Roethlisberger. Had the Steelers had Rothlisberger, the Ravens likely don’t win the division by more than three games. They likely are still the number one seed, finishing with 13 wins, but they would not have been considered overwhelming favorites to knock off the Titans or the Steelers had they snuck into the playoffs. Baltimore would have had much more realistic expectations in 2020. Their 6-4 start would be viewed as a good start rather than a disappointment.
Even with a nightmarish season, the Ravens have winnable games in December. Jackson could reverse the funk and put the Ravens back in the playoffs with a 2018-style run. It may be time for another Lamar Jackson market correction.
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