It’s hard to get enough of Lamar Jackson’s highlight-reel runs, but during Thursday night’s preseason game against the Packers, every muscle on my body tightened up when the young Ravens QB took off to the end zone for a 20-yard run featuring multiple busted tackles. It got called back for a flag, so it didn’t matter even in an exhibition context, but if Jackson hadn’t been able to avoid multiple Packers, any damage incurred would have been very real.
The presence of Robert Griffin III further down the Ravens’ depth chart is all the reminder you need to be extremely worried about Lamar Jackson getting himself killed as he begins his first season as the undisputed focal point of his NFL team’s offense. As talented as he is at getting yards with his feet, anyone watching him fearlessly take on defenders can’t help but think about the possibility of injury on any given hit. The Ravens’ plans for Jackson, whose 147 rushes last year were an NFL record for a quarterback, don’t exactly soothe those fears:
In talking about Jackson’s capacity to run, it was pointed out to (coach John) Harbaugh during an NFL Network interview that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s high was 139 rushes in a season. Harbaugh responded, “Take the over.”
It was Aaron Rodgers, no stranger to contact injuries himself, who voiced the larger Baltimore community’s concerns after the game last night.
“I love watching you play, man. That was spectacular,” Rodgers said. “Have a great season. Slide a little bit.”
Some good news for Jackson’s safety is that both the player and the team owner seem less excited about topping his carries from last season, even if they’re contradicted by the coach. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in May, “Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game. That’s not what this offense is about.” The team isn’t literally limiting Jackson’s touches, but in a radio interview from a couple weeks ago, the QB echoed Bisciotti rather than Harbaugh when talking about the game plan for this year.
“I don’t think I’ll be running as much as I did last year,” Jackson said. “There were a lot of [run-pass options] and a lot of sudden changes in last year’s game. This will be totally different.”
Fans and analysts everywhere are going to debate the proper balance between maximizing Jackson’s skills and keeping him protected all season, but one thing’s for sure: As cool as it is to get a fun highlight out of an otherwise irrelevant preseason game, there’s no reason for Jackson to be breaking tackles when the stakes are this low.