Every time Lamar Jackson turns a corner at the line of scrimmage and exposes his body, the Ravens hold their collective breath. And when he rises from the turf for another play, there is one big exhale.

He survived.


It’s not that dramatic on the field on Sunday afternoons, but the Ravens know they are rolling the dice with Jackson as their running quarterback. Coach John Harbaugh will pretend that he isn’t too concerned because the organization has committed to Jackson.

So, it comes down to fate. Which player might crash into Jackson’s knee and end his season and the Ravens’ playoff hopes along with it?

Can Jackson hold up for 10 more games? That’s the big question around town.

Football fans around the country marveled at Jackson’s performance Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals as the second-year quarterback rushed for 152 yards and threw for 236. Watching Jackson play is pure entertainment because he can make a big play from anywhere on the field with his arm or legs.

The real beauty is his speed and ability to cut, weave or dodge while running at full-tilt. He doesn’t just beat defenders, he embarrasses them.

You love to watch him play. When he turns the corner off the edge, you sit up in your seat and wait for something magical to happen, sort of like Magic Johnson on a fast break with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Yet at the same time, I keep wondering how long it will be until someone crushes him on a tackle the way former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata did to then-Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012.

“I just think it’s part of the game right now with the way we play, the way Lamar plays,” Harbaugh said. "I’m impressed with his toughness, there’s no question about that. The goal is not probably to take certain hits.”

Eventually, the hits will catch up with Jackson, one way or another. When it starts getting into crunch time in the NFL and money and playoff glory are on the line, players turn it up a notch. They get hyped up. They might take cheap shots. It’s part of the game. All of those shots taken during the course of a season will wear a player down.

Many years from now, Jackson could be like a boxer who has taken one punch too many. The damage becomes overwhelming and forces a faster-than-expected decline.

One thing is for sure, Jackson won’t carry the ball 19 times a game for the rest of the year like he did Sunday. Only a week before, Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray rushed for 93 yards against the Bengals, who entered the game with one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Everyone knew Jackson was going to run often, except for the Bengals. There were a lot of designed runs and other times when Jackson simply took off on his own. The Ravens’ coaching staff gets props for the game plan and sticking to it.

But Jackson won’t have that many designed runs against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday or versus the New England Patriots two weeks later. Unlike last year, when he thought he was still in college and could lower his shoulder to take on tacklers, Jackson has learned to slide or run out of bounds.

He’s a smart player.


And the Ravens could do him a favor by including more rollouts and waggles in the passing game to get him out on the perimeter. Staying in the pocket with this offensive line can be hazardous to his health.

The development of rookie running back Justice Hill would also help Jackson. Right now, Jackson is the team’s only outside running threat and opens up the inside power game for Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards.

Hill could be the other outside threat. The Ravens used him Sunday on plays around the edge and Hill ran five times for 31 yards. That takes some pressure off Jackson.

There have been times this season when Jackson has come up limping or has been hobbled for a few plays after hard hits. The Ravens, though, have made a commitment to him and this offense.

They named Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator in the offseason and added David Culley as a passing game coordinator because he had previously worked with running quarterbacks like Jackson.

Harbaugh and Jackson are virtually married. Both will be able to stay and reside in Baltimore if Jackson does well. At this point, Jackson is on pace to average about 11.5 rushing attempts a game.

That’s kind of scary.

A lot of quarterbacks get injured these days, even the conventional ones who stay in the pocket more than Jackson. But when you run and improvise as much as Jackson, it only increases the chances of getting hurt.

The Ravens aren’t overly concerned. Their best chance of winning is allowing Jackson to be Jackson. And then let fate play its part.

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