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Film Room: Lamar Jackson will raise the heat on an embattled Bengals defense

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Lamar Jackson could be a game-changer for the Ravens. And he could be a game-changer on Sunday against the Bengals.

New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson could turn out to be the most talked about player from the 2018 NFL Draft. He has a special athletic ability that has caused him to be pigeon-holed as a “running quarterback” or even worse, a projected wide receiver. Make no mistake, Jackson is a quarterback who can make special plays with his arm as well as his legs. With Joe Flacco’s status in question for Sunday against the Bengals, Jackson may see his first NFL start this weekend against Cincinnati.

The Ravens have used Jackson in packages lined up at receiver or in the backfield. They don’t seem to really understand how to use him effectively, but despite the fact that he has not had any Sports Center Top 10 quality plays, he has been effective. He has averaged five yards per carry, but more than that, the team’s rushing average increases more than 50 percent when he is on the field, regardless of whether of not he carries the ball. Color commentators have complained that teams don’t respect the pass when he is on the field, but that is ludicrous. Every team in the NFL knows who he is and has watched his film. They know that he can make big plays in the pass game.

Even if you don’t follow football and the only reason you are reading this article is because you found the link on my mom’s Facebook page, you know that Jackson can run. He has an incredible ability to make plays with his legs. The clip below is an ill-conceived shovel pass that Jackson completely reverses field on and still turns into a first down.

The real advantage to having a quarterback with great athletic ability isn’t in the run game, it is in the pass game. Quarterbacks like Jackson can use their athletic ability to create big passing plays. Here, Jackson avoids the sack and throws a great ball down field. He doesn’t even have to escape the pocket to give himself the time he needs to find a receiver down field.

Some quarterbacks are just better on the move, but Jackson can have success as a pocket passer as well. Here, he has a clean pocket and shows great touch on this touchdown pass.

Here is another excellent throw by Jackson. He shows great accuracy to thread the needle between two defenders on this deep pass.

Unfortunately, Jackson’s accuracy is inconsistent. One of the biggest concerns about his as a prospect was his accuracy and his overall completion percentage. This ties in closely with another concern people had about him: his footwork. At times his feet will get too tight and he won’t step into his throw, which is what happens in this clip. This will make it difficult for the Ravens to move the ball constantly in the pass game and could give the Bengals turnover opportunities.

Jackson has special abilities as both a runner and a passer and is a threat to score a touchdown at any moment. If the Bengals do see him this weekend, new defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis (wink) will have to have his crew playing fast and disciplined football. Jackson is, however, a rookie quarterback and will make mistakes that will give the Bengals turnover opportunities on which they must capitalize.