Since being drafted 32nd overall in 2018 by the Baltimore Ravens, 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson has become debatably the most exciting player to ever play the quarterback position in the NFL. He has set numerous records while proving there is no consistent archetype for an elite starting quarterback in the modern-day NFL. His ability to take the smallest opening and turn it into a big play on the ground is unparalleled and led to him becoming the youngest player in NFL history to the MVP award.
Jackson put the league on notice in his first season as an NFL starter. He set the league record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,206 yards and led the NFL in touchdown passes with 36. The Ravens finished the year with the best record in the league and set a franchise record with 14 regular-season wins. While his 2020 season was not quite the record-breaking season Jackson had in 2019, he still showed he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Jackson once again ran for over 1,000 yards, finished tied for third in the league in touchdown percentage, and won the first playoff game of his career.
2021 will be another big season for Jackson. The expectations for him, as well as the Ravens, are growing by the year and one that may call for Jackson to improve his game yet again. Only nine players have won multiple MVP awards but Jackson’s electrifying style mixed with his track record of success could make him the 10th to accomplish the feat. If Jackson were to find a new way to continue his dominance, he could be looking at a season that surpasses his 2019 mark.
How Lamar Jackson Could Win MVP – Again
Jackson’s First MVP Season
Jackson’s true breakout season came in 2019. As a rookie in 2018, he struggled to locate receivers deep and was incredibly turnover-prone — fumbling 12 times and throwing three interceptions. His sophomore year was completely different.
Jackson put the league on notice Week 1 with a dominant performance over the Miami Dolphins. On just 20 passing attempts, the Ravens quarterback threw for 324 yards (a career-high), five touchdowns, and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week shortly after. He also finished the game as the youngest player in NFL history to record a perfect passer rating.
Week 1 was a predecessor to what was about to come. Jackson’s next six games, while not as dominant, saw him amass a 4-2 record, over 1,500 total yards, and eight touchdowns. However, he threw five of his six interceptions on the season over the six-game span. The Ravens entered their bye week following the five-win start but the Jackson that entered their bye was not the same that came out.
Following Baltimore’s bye, Jackson led the Ravens on maybe the most dominant eight-game winning streak the NFL saw in the 2010s. It started against the New England Patriots where Jackson and company hung 37 points on the number-one defense before piling up three straight four-score wins. During the streak, Baltimore averaged a total of 36.1 points per game with Jackson accounting for 29 total touchdowns, just one interception, and a passer rating of 130.3. Jackson was named AFC Player of the Week in four of the eight weeks.
Ravens play the Rams in the now-added 17th game.
In their last meeting (2019), Lamar Jackson became the first player to throw five TD passes in a Monday Night Football debut.
He did so despite not playing the final 14 minutes, 43 seconds of the game.
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) March 31, 2021
The Marks it Takes For Lamar Jackson to Win the MVP in the Modern NFL
The NFL MVP is largely a narrative-driven award but is also one that demands a certain level of excellence.
Of the last five MVP winners, Tom Brady was the only player to not lead the NFL in QBR. The past three MVP winners have all led the NFL in touchdown passes. Cam Newton (fifth) in 2015 was the last player to win the award and finish outside of the top three but also led the league with 45 total touchdowns — 35 through the air and 10 on the ground. Jackson finished his 2019 MVP campaign leading the NFL in both passing touchdowns and total touchdowns (43).
MVP winners do not turn the ball over either. Since 2009, Patrick Mahomes in 2018 is the only quarterback to win the award and throw more than 10 interceptions. Adrian Peterson, a running back, is the only player over the past 12 seasons to win the MVP without a passer rating of 99.0 or higher. The last quarterback to win the award with a sub-90 passer rating was Peyton Manning in 2008.
Regular-season success goes hand and hand with winning awards in the NFL. A quarterback has not won the MVP award without winning their division since the NFL broke each conference into multiple divisions in 1983. Jackson plays in debatably the toughest division football and could need upwards of 13 wins to ensure an AFC North title.
What Would Jackson’s Stat Line Look Like
Jackson’s 2019 was something the NFL had never seen before. While his ability to run the ball as a quarterback was impressive, he passed the ball at an incredibly high level as well. That season, Jackson became the first player in NFL to each rush for over 1,000 yards and throw for over 3,000 yards. Prior to 2019, Michael Vick was the only quarterback to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and he only threw for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns.
It is fair to say that to win another MVP, Jackson has to one-up his 2019 numbers. He might not have to break the single-season rushing record he set two seasons ago but he will likely have to eclipse his passing yard total (3,127 yards) by a fair amount.
Jackson would need to have a year that resembled the pace Kyler Murray set throughout the first half of 2020. Through nine games last season, Murray was on pace to total 4,222 passing yards, 1,074 rushing yards, and 48 total touchdowns. Murray’s season took a turn when he sustained a shoulder injury Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks and never quite looked the same after. He finished the year with 3,971 passing yards, 819 rushing yards, 37 total touchdowns, and a passer rating of 94.3.
Lamar Jackson’s 2021 projections 👀
Another MVP for Baltimore’s QB1? pic.twitter.com/S3bsfbD6V3
— PFF (@PFF) July 5, 2021
For Jackson to win another MVP he would need to become the first quarterback ever to pass for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards. Given how much head coach John Harbaugh opts to rest Jackson when his team is up big, reaching those numbers could be very tough. In 2020, Murray played almost 200 more offensive snaps than Jackson did in his MVP campaign and still failed to hit the mark.
The Ravens Have Given Lamar Jackson the Tools He Needs For MVP
While the Ravens have had a ton of success over the past three seasons, perhaps their biggest weakness has been their weapons in the passing game. They have heavily relied on Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews over the past two seasons but have brought in a number of weapons that could help unlock the true potential of their offense.
This off-season, the Ravens GM set out on a mission to improve the offense. He made three key wide receiver additions who should all immediately contribute in the passing game. Rashod Bateman will add incredibly sound route running, Tylan Wallace will add explosive playmaking at the catch point and through contact, and Sammy Watkins will give Jackson a reliable veteran target to depend on. Jackson’s wide receivers dropped the highest percentage of balls in the NFL in 2020.
The Ravens will also get a boost to their offense via the offensive line. A combination of inexperience and injuries led to the Ravens often struggling in pass protection last season. Baltimore ranked as Football Outsiders 13th-best pass blocking line in 2020 while Pro Football Focus ranked the Ravens as the 16th-overall offensive line coming out of 2020.
Now in 2021, the Ravens get back debatably the NFL’s best pass-blocking tackle in Ronnie Stanley and have made a multitude of key additions elsewhere on the line. Bradley Bozeman has officially moved back to center from left guard, the position he started 31 games at Alabama, while Alejandro Villaneuva and Kevin Zeitler will bring a combined 224 starts to the right side of the line. Baltimore may not have a top-three line like the Ravens did in 2019 but they should be much improved from a season ago.
2021 is a Huge Year for Jackson’s Present and Future
After winning a unanimous MVP in 2019, it was always going to be impossible for Jackson to repeat his performance again. He accomplished things that had never been done before as a 22-year old and improving on that so quickly was going to be tough.
Jackson is now entering the fourth year of his rookie deal and will be playing for a new contract in 2021. The Ravens picked up his fifth-year option this off-season and would like a big season out of their franchise quarterback. Baltimore has always had a tough time finding game-changing pass catchers but general manager Eric DeCosta has assembled a group that should help Jackson find the best version of himself this coming season.
A second MVP will be tough to win due to Jackson’s polarizing play style but the entire NFL knows he has the ability to set the league on fire.
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