Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a human highlight reel: slicing through opposing teams like a knife through soft butter––smooth, lucid, and controlled. In a game that is typically a predator-prey battle, where the defense tries to pounce on the quarterback, Jackson is changing the narrative. The defense is his prey, and on a weekly basis, he has feasted, having won nine games (about to be ten). Perhaps, what’s most impressive is how Jackson has made experienced coaches look like NFL newcomers. Pete Carroll? Bill Belichick? Bill O’Brien? Mike Tomlin? All have fallen victim to Jackson’s MVP caliber performances.
Since a Week 4 home loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have been the most dominant team in the league, and it’s not close. In their last seven games, in which they are undefeated, the Ravens have outscored their opponents by an average of 21 points. In the last five games, the number is more staggering: opponents have lost by an astounding 28 points. Moreover, in those five games, the Ravens not only demoralized the NFL bottom feeders, but also soundly defeated the top dogs in the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. The historic season can be attributed to many things: the aggressive play calling of John Harbaugh, the genius of Greg Roman’s offensive schemes, or the impeccable defensive play, which has held opponents to 14 points a game during the win streak. However, there is one person who is carrying the most weight: MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson.
What makes Jackson so lethal is that he can torch opposing secondaries through the air and burn linebackers on the ground; he is the epitome of a new wave of dual-threat quarterbacks who are taking the NFL by storm. Yet, what separates Jackson from the rest of the league is his killer instinct, his passion to win. In my 10+ years of watching football, I’ve never seen a player want to win more than Lamar Jackson. From convincing Harbaugh to “go for it” on fourth down in Seattle (on what turned out to be a game deciding-play) to chastising himself after barely missing a rushing touchdown in Los Angeles, Jackson has an innate competitiveness that is unparalleled across the league.
Even more, it’s his actions off the field, the camaraderie in the locker room and his humble attitude, that have allowed the Ravens to “fly on to victory.” Jackson is one of the most selfless players in the league. Although, he seems to set a new NFL record each week (i.e., against the Bengals, he became the first quarterback to throw for 200+ passing yards and run for 150+ rushing yards in a single game), he never gloats in the spotlight. He continuously gives credit to those around him: his O-line, receivers, running-backs, and the defense––everyone but himself. Jackson is focused on his team, doing everything he can to lead and elevate the players around him. It’s this optimism and positivity, deeply rooted in the organization, which has cultivated a strong locker room culture, translating to success on the field.
Whether it’s a 50-yard strike to Hollywood Brown or Miles Boykin, or a masterful run, carving and spinning through the opposing defense, Jackson is changing the modern game of football. Not only is Jackson well above pace to break Michael Vick’s single-season quarterback rushing record, but he is also the QBR league-leader, proving he can pass equally well as he can run. In a single season, Jackson has evolved into a multi-dimensional playmaker that opposing defenses will fear for the next decade.
What’s most scary, yet tantalizingly beautiful for Ravens fans, is that this is only Jackson’s first full-year playing for the Ravens––last year Jackson sat out until he was thrust into the starting role after Joe Flacco’s hip injury. Incredibly, since obtaining the starting role, Jackson has a 15-3 record, winning the AFC North and leading the Ravens to a playoff appearance––and another playoff entrance and division title seem inevitable this year given the Ravens state of play.
It’s only his second year in the league, but Jackson’s promise to Ravens fans, “They’re gonna get a Super Bowl out of me. Believe that,” seems more likely with each passing week.