I don’t care what anybody else says, Lamar Jackson’s first career start was glorious. There were mistakes, of course, but how can you react too negatively to them when we knew they would happen? What’s far more important than the 24 carries and the poor interception was the fact that he led this team to a win against a team that they had immense troubles with for Joe Flacco’s entire career.
For as long as I can remember, the Bengals have been the Ravens’ bugaboo. That is until Lamar Jackson walked into M&T Bank Stadium last Sunday. Not only did Jackson win his first ever start, but he was also unquestionably the driving force for the win and brought a fresh, exciting dynamic to the team, which clearly got behind him.
Jackson broke the Ravens rushing yards record by a quarterback, which we all knew he would eventually own, incredibly easily. What’s more, Gus Edwards and the running game thrived with Jackson at the helm, just as coach Harbaugh claimed would happen.
What I find even more exciting, however, is that Jackson didn’t look half-bad throwing the ball, either. Sure, he made a throw that was clearly a poor decision and resulted in an interception, but looking at the play again, you can see what Jackson saw on the play and we can chalk up the result to his education that the NFL game-speed is much faster than it was at Louisville. Plus, other than his INT, Jackson made a number of impressive throws, including a few third-down conversions to Willie Snead and Mark Andrews that I don’t think Flacco would have made.
Jackson’s ability to make something out of nothing and extend plays is something that Flacco can’t do. Where Flacco would find Buck Allen for a dump-off five-yard gain, Jackson made time for himself and found John Brown for a 20-plus-yard play to put the Ravens in field goal range just before the half.
So now, as Lamar Jackson is 1-0 and the Ravens are the 6th-seed in the playoff hunt, where does Harbaugh go? Jackson will almost certainly start on Sunday against the Raiders, but under the assumption that he wins again (27-13 final, in my mind), do the Ravens ride his legs into Atlanta or turn to the veteran Joe Flacco?
As I believe I’ve expressed before, I think the Ravens should roll with Lamar. Jackson is the future of this franchise, whether fans want to admit that or not, and after seeing how bright that future could be the team must stick with him and help him along.
Yes, the Ravens want to make the playoffs, but to me, the argument that Flacco gives them their best shot at that goal is somewhat questionable. With Jackson under center, his team had a spark I haven’t seen in it since 2014. If the squad is reenergized with Jackson at the helm and the coaches put Flacco back in, that could prove demoralizing. And, given Jackson’s ability to explode on the scene, I actually trust him to pull an upset over Kansas City or Los Angeles way more than I do Flacco. Actually, I’m going to say it. If the Ravens start Joe Flacco after Oakland, they will miss the playoffs. If they stick with Lamar Jackson and take advantage of his spark, they will.
I’m super excited for the new Ravens quarterback, so let’s make sure he doesn’t run the ball over 15 times a game, sit back and enjoy the show!