Mike Preston: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is MVP candidate, but jury’s out on whether that’s enough | COMMENT
We’ve seen this movie before.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the star attraction, just as he was Sunday, throwing for four touchdowns and running for another in the Ravens’ 37-26 victory over the New England Patriots. He electrified the crowd with his running ability (107 yards on 11 carries) and hauled in enough passes in tight coverage to finish with a quarterback rating of 110.3 and 218 yards.
But as the Ravens enter the postseason, which they watched from home last year, they bomb. This became the usual ending. Since Jackson has been in Baltimore, the Ravens are just 1-3 in the playoffs and have advanced to the divisional round once.
Jackson may be on his way to another NFL MVP award to match the one he won in 2019, but at times it looks like this movie will have a similar outcome.
The Ravens have only played three games and there is still a lot that can happen. But what they no longer have is a respectable defense. They have allowed nearly 400 yards in each of their first three games. And we all remember the fourth-quarter meltdown in a 42-38 loss to Miami early in Week 2 at home.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way and I feel like that’s something we’re working hard to improve on, but in this particular game, I think it was about guys stepping up and playing, ” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team forced multiple turnovers in the fourth quarter Sunday to salvage what felt like another potential disaster.
Jackson can make you forget about that bad defense. Some of his runs on Sunday were incredible, and there are times when he embarrasses defensive players one-on-one in the open field. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of his game is his strength; attackers have a hard time taking him down, even when wrapped all over him.
But he is the only truly great player on the roster. No one else keeps opposing coaches up at night.
This worries me.
It’s a franchise known for defensive greatness and Hall of Famers like middle linebacker Ray Lewis, linebacker Ed Reed and cornerback Rod Woodson. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is also knocking on the door in Canton, Ohio.
There is no one close to that height on this 2022 defense. There are no healthy, game-changing players who can take over the game. The Ravens’ cornerbacks still struggle in coverage, and the linebacker corps is just as bad because they can’t get off blocks or get consistent pressure on the quarterback.
On Sunday, Patriots quarterback Mack Jones completed 22 of 32 passes for 321 yards, despite finishing with a 62.1 rating.
It doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy about this protection.
There were some good signs on Sunday, however. The upset offensive line got in sync in the second half and the group needs to improve once and if the Pro Bowl leaves the game, Ronnie Stanley decides to return from an ankle injury.
Quarterback Justise Hill has started to show some form at running back and starter JK Dobbins is back on the field after recovering from a preseason knee injury that forced him out of the 2021 season.
I like receiver Devin DuVernay’s speed and the occasional big play from fellow receiver Rashod Bateman. And of course, there’s tight end Mark Andrews.
Jackson can carry this team with his feet, but not necessarily with his arm. You saw some of that Sunday with the sloppy second quarter and poor mechanics when his passes started to drop or go over the head of his receivers.
But the Ravens looked confident after Sunday. Gillette Stadium is a tough place to win, especially with all the tradition here and six Super Bowl trophies.
But the Ravens have a lot to overcome – more than usual. We’ve seen this before. I watched Ray Lewis walk off the field after playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment because the Ravens could never find a top quarterback.
Maybe they can change the ending in 2022.
“Just focus, determination,” Jackson said. “I feel like we build more from adversity and play better from adversity. We just have to keep going because we have a long season ahead of us.”
Sunday, 1 p.m
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