Ravens players once again are being asked to defend quarterback Lamar Jackson after criticism from national media. This time, it’s from an anonymous NFL defensive coordinator.
In an article in The Athletic ranking quarterbacks into tiers based on a poll of 50 NFL coaches and executives, the defensive coordinator said he didn’t think the Ravens could win if Jackson is forced to throw and that Jackson will never be a top-tier quarterback.
“If he had to pass to win the game, they ain’t winning the game,” the defensive coordinator said. “He’s so unique as an athlete and he’s really a good football player, but I don’t [care] if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don’t think he’ll ever be a 1 as a quarterback. He’ll be a 1 as a football player, but not as a quarterback. So many games come down to two-minute, and that is why they have a hard time advancing even when they are good on defense. Playoffs are tight. You have to be able to throw the ball, and he is just so inconsistent throwing the ball. It is hit or miss.”
Tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson’s top pass-catcher, was blunt in his response.
“We’ll see whoever that was, for sure, mmm hmm,” Andrews said succinctly.
It’s not the first time Jackson has been criticized since the Ravens took the Heisman Trophy winner in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft out of Louisville. He’s been called a running back, and pundits talk about his accuracy. This offseason, his contract negotiations — and value — have been a further point of critique.
In the article in The Athletic, Jackson was ranked 10th and in the second tier of quarterbacks. He was the third-best quarterback in the AFC North, ranking below the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow (sixth) and the Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson (ninth).
Jackson’s teammates don’t agree.
“That’s a foolish statement,” veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Tuesday. “If you win 12 MVPs, you’re the best quarterback of all time. Certain people always have their opinions and you really can’t care about what other people think. Everything Lamar does, if he goes out there and wins the Super Bowl three years in a row, people are still going to be critics.”
ESPN insider Louis Riddick said on “Get Up” Tuesday morning that “this doesn’t seem cowardly, it is cowardly. This doesn’t seem personal, it is personal.”
In a similar exercise, ESPN surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, and Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player, ranked outside the top 10 quarterbacks.
“Hard to stay healthy when you run that much; he’s actually gotten a lot better as a passer,” one NFL offensive coach said. “But if you play that way [with a run-heavy attack] and it’s a close game and you’re down, it’s really hard to win, because you’re asked to do what you only minor in, not major in, and that’s passing the ball when they know you are gonna pass it.”
Opinions on Jackson in The Athletic’s poll varied. As many voters had Jackson in Tier 1 (eight) as Tier 3. Other coaches quoted in the article also commented on Jackson’s passing ability holding him back from top-tier status. An anonymous offensive coach wants to see him improve his ability to identify coverages.
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In his four NFL seasons, Jackson has completed 64.1% of his passes for 9,967 yards with 84 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while rushing for 3,673 yards and 21 scores. He is 37-12 in the regular season as a starter but is 1-3 in the playoffs.
“One thing I know is that when you’re doing stuff that’s different than what everyone else does and you’re great at it, people don’t like that,” linebacker Patrick Queen said Tuesday. “Lamar going to keep being Lamar and wherever that gets him which I know is going to be high places, great places, hats off to him. Haters going to be haters.”
Jackson, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, is in Owings Mills and is expected to take the field Wednesday for the first day of training camp. He and general manager Eric DeCosta are expected to continue discussions about a contract extension throughout camp.
His teammates are glad to have him in the building.
“Let the haters talk,” Campbell said.