The Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson just delivered their most surprising result of the season by heading out west and dominating the Los Angeles Chargers. While it was largely the defense that baffled Philip Rivers and stifled his options, as well as the running game, Jackson and the offense also did its part at the end of the day.
That included a new career high for the rookie in passing yards. He threw for 204 yards, the first 200-yard passing game of his career in six starts. That came thanks largely to a 68-yard connection between himself and fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews on what was surely the best throw of the quarterback’s young career. Andrews did a lot of the work with great effort after the catch, but it’s the sort of play the Ravens envision Jackson making for them down the line.
The first-rounder also had a career-low in rushing yards, picking up just 39 on 17 rushes, but that included a big 27-yard run up the middle to convert on third and two. That put the Ravens into Chargers territory, and they wound up all the way down to the two-yard line, but Jackson threw out of bounds on fourth and goal to result in a turnover on downs.
There is still a lot—a lot—of room for improvement from Jackson when it comes to being a pocket passer. He completed just 12 of 22 passes in the game and is now 85 of 146 on the season, a completion percentage just a tick north of 58. His yards per attempt is south of seven. He has just six touchdown passes, though he hasn’t thrown an interception in four weeks now.
Despite the work left ahead of him, however, his ability to run—and his threat to run—has clearly transformed the Ravens’ offense as they continue to average over 200 yards on the ground per game since Jackson has taken over.
Rookie undrafted free agent Gus Edwards has had a lot to do with, and he added another 92 yards on 14 carries last night in Los Angeles. He now has carried the ball 110 times over the past six games 578 yards, though with just two touchdowns.
And most importantly, the Ravens have been winning. They are 5-1 in the time since Jackson entered the starting lineup, and their only loss came to the Kansas City Chiefs, on the road, in overtime. They were a 4-5 team prior to that and looking set for another lost season.
Now they are on the verge of reaching the postseason, perhaps even as a division winner depending on how the Pittsburgh Steelers handle the New Orleans Saints later today. What does this mean for next year? Defenses will learn how to defend Jackson on the ground, but can he pair that with growth from the pocket?