Will Ravens QB Lamar Jackson take another Patrick Mahomes-like leap in year three?
The comparisons between the last two league MVPs have dominated headlines and sparked debates all offseason. Baltimore Ravens franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson and Kansas City Chiefs’ star signal-caller will be linked and compared to one another for the next decade after they both had a meteoric rise to stardom in their first two years respectively. They both produced historic seasons in their first seasons as full-time starters winning the NFL’s top individual honor and guiding their teams to the No.1 seed in the AFC.
Mahomes’ success in the postseason compared to Jackson’s lack thereof has been well documented and relentlessly lamented whenever the two polarizing players have been brought up in the same conversation this offseason. The Chiefs just won their first Superbowl in half a century and Mahomes had a playoff run for the ages by leading his team to comeback victories in all three of their postseason contest, including the Superbowl, where they trailed by double digits at one point in each game.
Jackson has made it known that he carries a chip on his shoulder and that he hopes that his career continues to follow the same upward trajectory as Mahomes and win a Superbowl in his third season after being named league MVP and the Madden cover athlete following his second year.
“I had a chip on my shoulder,” Jackson said to NFL Network when he was revealed as the No.1 player on their annual Top 100 list that is voted on by his peers around the league. “And I still do. I’m going to always have a chip until I get me a [champion]chip…I only got one goal right now and that’s to win a Superbowl.”
He dramatically improved as a passer from his rookie year to his sophomore campaign and wound up leading the league with 36 passing touchdowns, including a league-high 25 from inside the pocket, despite not playing in all 16 games and taking into account that the Ravens being ranked near the bottom of the league in passing offense.
Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 or more yards and eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a single season, a feat that not even the great Michael Vick—Jackson’s childhood idol—ever accomplished in his 13-year career.
Statistical regression is a part of the nature of the game in the NFL. Reigning league MVPs rarely come close to matching, surpassing, or even in the ballpark of their dominant production from the year before.
So how is Jackson going to best his record-breaking 2019 season?
He plans on improving in every facet of the game from becoming an even more prolific passer as well as a better runner of then football if you can actually even imagine that. The thought of a version of Lamar Jackson that is even sharper and more accurate in the passing game and even deadlier as a rusher is the kind of nightmare that will have defenders and defensive coaches that the Ravens are slated to play in the regular season or could play in the postseason waking up in a pool of sweat the week leading up to and the day of the contest.
“There’s always room for improvement and I just got to keep grinding,” said Jackson in his first time addressing the media since training camp opened. “Working on everything; passing, running ability, everything and I feel like the sky’s the limit for not just me but the team and the whole organization.”
Mahomes admitted in an interview this offseason that he didn’t start really being able to read and diagnose defenses until midway through last season, implying that he was pretty much winging it and just executing the plays that were called or creating new ones when the original begins to break down. His improvisational skills when things don’t go according to the way it was drawn up are arguably the best in league history that is reminiscent of a hybrid between two of the Green Bay Packers legendary quarterbacks. He has the gunslinger mentality of Brett Farve and the deadly accuracy and killer instinct of the silent assassin that is Aaron Rodgers.
The closest comparison that anyone can make to Jackson is Vick but even he conceded that the Ravens star is a better passer than he ever was and has the potential to be the greatest that ever was with the way he is changing the game and paving the way for a new breed of quarterbacks that in the past, teams wanted to move them to different surrounding skill positions like running back and receiver instead of under center where they can make an impact on every play because they’d have the ball in their hands to begin with down in and down out.
If Jackson can take a similar leap to Mahomes in terms of refining the mental aspect of his game, he might not only lead the Ravens to the promised land and add yet another trophy to his already impressive case, he’ll be able to finally silence the doubter and detractors who still persist in their constant casting of aspersions about him being able to have sustainable success at an elite level.