BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Ravens 2020 season kicks off on Sunday when the division rival Cleveland Browns visit M&T Bank Stadium for a Week 1 matchup. With the dawn of a new season comes questions about what the expectations should be for John Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson and company. After a 14-2 season in which Jackson and the offense lit the league on fire in the regular season with a punishing and varied rushing attack, one of the biggest questions is can they sustain it?
More specifically, that question is aimed at Jackson who became just the second quarterback in league history to rush for over 1,000 yards breaking Michael Vick’s record with 1,206 rushing yards. There’s a reason we have never seen a quarterback rush for 1,000 yards twice. Mainly, the defining rule of the league over time has been limit the quarterback run game to keep your quarterback from taking too many hits. But, NFL on CBS analysts Charles Davis and Tony Romo both believe Jackson is an exception to that rule.
“You have to be cognizant of it and protect your quarterback the best you can. But Lamar Jackson has been doing this his whole life. He knows where the hits are coming from, he knows how to get down, how to take care of himself. I think it is sustainable and I think it’s adaptable. Baltimore has built themselves that way,” Davis said in a media call this week.
Romo agrees and he attributes that ability to avoid hits to a rare talent that Jackson is equipped with: preternatural spatial awareness.
“The reason this works is because he has the ability to have spatial awareness and not a lot of runners do. If you really watch Lamar Jackson, he has the ability to even without knowing the coverage, and when you’re younger you never really do, as you get older you’re always trying to decipher before the snap and get to the right play. When you’re young you don’t know,” Romo said on the media call. “But (Lamar) just knows this guy is a little further away than the guy is running this route and he just feels that and sees it. He does that when he runs as well. He doesn’t take these big hits. I think he is special and rare.”
That awareness combines with an offense that was specifically built to complement what Jackson does well. With a full complement of weapons in the backfield behind him and a punishing offensive line, the team is well built to execute Greg Roman’s offense. And Davis points out, that’s something the team began thinking about before they even drafted Jackson.
“You go back, John Harbaugh before they even drafted Lamar Jackson, challenged his offensive staff and said, ‘If we take this kid, I want to know the offense you’re going to put him in,'” Davis said. “Tell me how we’re going to do this. All they have done is continue to refine it.”
For Romo, the offense has the potential to only continue to get better because as Jackson grows in the league, he will come to further understand the complexities of the defenses he’s playing against and what teams are trying to do to him.
“Let’s not even imagine 5-6 years down the line when he actually understands the game at a level all quarterbacks develop and get into after awhile. At that point, he can be, who knows? Patrick [Mahomes] is like that the same way. They see and feel things without even knowing coverage,” said Romo. “When they develop the coverage? They could evolve the quarterback position to heights we have never seen. And that’s saying a lot because we’re watching the greatest of all time. It’s special to watch all of these guys.”
The next step in Jackson’s evolution begins Sunday with kick-off from M&T Bank Stadium set for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.