Make no mistake, Joe Flacco is the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback and will be under center for most of Thursday night’s game, but Lamar Jackson will be a factor in the game, too.
The Ravens have packages for both Flacco and Jackson and both were on the field simultaneously in Baltimore’s season opener against the Bills. This is a frightening proposition. The thought of Jackson under center brings back images of Deshaun Watson scrambling for a 49 yard touchdown on third-and-15 shortly before halftime on a Thursday night game against the Bengals almost exactly a year ago. The demoralizing run came when the game was tied 3-3 and ended up being the definitive play of the game as the Bengals lost 9-13.
With that in mind, it doesn’t matter that Jackson will only get a hand full of snaps. He is capable of making a big play any time he touches the ball and one big play could be the deciding factor in this matchup. Jackson wound up getting a lot of time at quarterback in Week 1 as the Ravens blew out the Bills, but he did not have any plays that stood out as ‘special’. Thursday night in front of a national audience against a divisional opponent is the perfect setting for Jackson’s welcome to the NFL. With a short week, the Ravens probably already had part of a game plan ready for the Bengals before the season started, and it definitely involves a handful of opportunities for Jackson to make a big play.
Below, Jackson has replaced Flacco at quarterback and Flacco lines up at wide receiver on the right side. This loaded backfield set is ideal for a quarterback run game as it provides lead blockers and the ability to run any number of spread option concepts. The first rule of playing option quarterback is if you get tackled by your read key, you made a bad read. Jackson made a bad read here.
Same formation, but this time Jackson makes the correct read by keeping the ball and he makes a solid gain on the play. This formation is likely a foundational piece of the Jackson package.
Expect to see this package throughout the season pic.twitter.com/kzkOtKZAhU— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2018
The Bengals need to be on high alert if Jackson is on the field but not taking the snap. This is a broken play, but appears to be a toss/pass out of an empty backfield. The Ravens bring Jackson in motion and toss it to him in stride. The assumption is that with Jackson’s speed and the already bizarre looking play, the defense will run up to stop him and leave a receiver wide open down the field. The Bills get some big time penetration on the front side of the play and it does not get a chance to develop. Don’t be surprised if Jackson lines up at receiver on Thursday night and motions to get the ball on a toss or jet sweep.
Here’s another good read by Jackson. As left defensive end Jerry Hughes gets up field, Jackson pulls the ball and follows his lead blocker up the field picking up a first down.
They call the play the zone read, but Chip Kelly says it is more of an “unless.” As in, you hand the ball off unless the read is going to make the tackle. Here, the left end is not getting up field, but he is not bending down the line in pursuit of the back either. This should have been a give by Jackson who uses his athletic ability to make what could have been a loss into a short gain.
This is a weird call on second-and-six in the middle of the field. Even much less athletic quarterbacks have been known to run this play on the goal line. It is a bootleg, but instead of the receivers running routes, it is a designed run. The idea is that the defense will sell out on the run fake (as they would on the goal line) and allow the quarterback to run the other direction for an easy score. Schematically it did not work at all. The running back was tackled almost immediately and Jackson has a man in his face the second he turns around. However, Jackson’s athleticism prevails and a great player makes a bad play call look good.
Old school play with new school speed pic.twitter.com/NzpAZYri3Y— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2018
This is an RPO and Jackson isn’t quite sure what he is seeing, so he freezes. Once again, because he is who he is, he is able to avoid disaster and gain three yards on the play.
Jackson has a nice little move to avoid the pass rusher on this play, but unfortunately he gets lost after that. He attempts to reset his feet to pass, but his eyes aren’t looking down field. He sees the other pass rushers in front of him and tries to dance his way out of danger but ends up being sacked.
This is a very athletic play by Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson. Reading the boot, he sticks a foot in the ground and turns up field to cut Jackson off. He would have made the play on just about any other quarterback in NFL, but Jackson is a special athlete and is able to narrowly escape. Jackson does not find an open man, but throws the ball away to avoid a negative play.
Not a positive play, but not a negative one either pic.twitter.com/35JhRGcc2d— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2018
Jackson looks comfortable in the pocket here, but his read is bad as the receiver is not open. Jackson’s ball is inaccurate and could have been intercepted.
This is what Jackson was looking for on the last clip. He is comfortable in the pocket and delivers a nice ball to Ravens tight end Maxx Williams between two defenders.
The Ravens had Jackson in for a couple of plays before pulling Flacco and giving a glimpse of the role he may play in the offense for the time being. From the play calling when Jackson did get in, it is evident they have put together an extensive package for him and that he will be making an appearance every week. He did not have any huge plays in Week 1, but he had some very good runs for big chunks of yardage. Jackson is going to be in the game plan Thursday night and preventing him from making a big play will be key to a Bengals victory.