Part of what made Lamar Jackson’s 2019 season great was the fact that he was one of the most productive runners in the NFL, leading the league in yards per rush. He led the league in passing touchdowns too.
In 2020, we’re seeing a different approach with Jackson. It appears that’s by design from the Baltimore Ravens.
Jackson is running far less, and also less effectively. But the Baltimore Ravens are 4-1, even if there are some things in the offense to iron out.
Jackson is just fine letting his teammates run the ball more.
Lamar Jackson not running as much
Last season, in Jackson’s historic MVP season, he rushed 176 times for 1,206 yards. Both marks are single-season records for a quarterback.
Jackson ran 11.7 times per game, and averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. This season those numbers are down to 8.2 attempts per game and 5.8 yards per rush. Both numbers are still very high for a quarterback, just a dip for Jackson.
"We have guys that run the ball very good for us and we're winning, so it really doesn't matter. We're 4-1," Jackson said, via the Ravens’ website. "It's a plus for us right now. As the season goes on, we're going to see if we need to and coach will adjust. But right now we're perfectly fine without me running so much."
There are two important takeaways from that comment: Jackson doesn’t mind having his rushing stats cut, and the Ravens still know they can rely on Jackson to carry it more when they’re not blowing teams out. It seems they’re just being more conservative with his usage as a runner until they need it.
Ravens passing game down a bit too
The Ravens had a bad game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but have looked good in every other game. Baltimore has scored at least 27 points in all four of their wins.
Jackson’s passing numbers are down a bit but that was to be expected. He threw a touchdown on 9% of his passes last season, which is unsustainable. His touchdown rate is down to a still-robust 6.7% this season and his passing yards per game are down from 208.5 to 189.8. Some of that is because the Ravens haven’t been in a close game yet and haven’t needed to pass, but Jackson still wants to see improvement.
"The passing game, we're still working on it," Jackson said. "We've got young guys that came in and stuff like that. We're just finding ourselves right now. I feel we're going to be good."
Jackson might not put up the numbers he did last season. That might be bad for your fantasy team, but the Ravens know there’s a bigger goal in mind, and they can unleash Jackson when they need it most.