Lamar Jackson has not run the ball so far quite as often as he has during the first two years of his career for the Baltimore Ravens. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been using his legs significantly and frequently, or that it’s anything to be less concerned about than in the past. And that pattern could also be changing.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are up next on their schedule, will have the first crack at trying to keep him contained in the pocket heading out of the Ravens’ bye week. So far this season, they have done a good job of containing mobile quarterbacks, such as Deshaun Watson in week three, Carson Wentz in week five, and Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.
Outside of perhaps Watson, however, Jackson is on a whole other level, and unlike Watson, he has many designed runs and isn’t always looking to throw first (he has the fewest pass attempts in the league for starting quarterbacks). And Mike Tomlin knows what he’s facing.
Asked what is the key to keeping him in check, he said, “I wish I had the answer to that. I wish the National Football League had the answer to that”, earlier today in his pre-game press conference. “’In check’ is a strong term, one that I choose not to use”.
“We’re just going to play to the best of our abilities, we are going to play within our personality, and we need to be on the details”, he went on. “We need to play fast and play collectively together and hopefully that is enough”.
As a rookie, once he entered the starting lineup under center, Jackson averaged an absolutely insane 17 rushing attempts per game, totaling 556 yards on the ground during that seven-game span at the end of the year, with four rushing scores.
Last season, for which he was named the unanimous league MVP, he averaged nearly 12 rushing attempts per game, totaling an NFL-record 1206 rushing yards on 176 attempts, both the most rushing yards and the most rushing attempts in a single season for a quarterback.
So far this season, he is only averaging 8.3 rushing attempts per game. He has still run the ball 50 times for 346 yards and two touchdowns, however, and he rushed nine times for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens’ last game.
For the moment, he is on pace to rush 133 times for 923 yards in 2020, with five rushing touchdowns. His 50 rushing attempts are tied with Mark Ingram for the most on the team so far this year, while Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins have also been getting work.
The Ravens’ 986 rushing yards lead the NFL in spite of the fact that there are team who have still not had their bye week, and they are on pace to rush for 2629 yards on the season. They have rushed for over 100 yards in every game, and only once rushed for fewer than 144 yards. The Steelers, meanwhile, have the second-ranked rushing defense behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.