Ask a contingent of sports media (and Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis), and they’ll tell you Lamar Jackson isn’t a threat as a thrower. He’s still just a running quarterback, they’ll say.
Ask Jackson’s teammates, and they’ll tell you a different story. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith backed Jackson, and accused the media of stereotyping the young quarterback.
From SI’s Robert Klemko:
“Any black quarterback, especially with that type of speed, will get labeled that he can’t throw, but he can throw.”
A number of Ravens pointed to this play (below), a 48-yard completion between Jackson and John Brown which got wiped away by an offensive holding penalty. While the play may not have counted on the stat sheet, it proved to Jackson’s teammates that he could sling the ball at the NFL level. Jackson dropped a deep ball right into the hands of Brown.
Here’s what running back Ty Montgomery said to Sports Illustrated about Jackson’s throwing abilities:
“It’s kind of hard to listen to the TV when they question his ability to throw the ball, because he can throw the ball. His running ability overshadows his arm for whatever reason, but you saw today he was putting throws on the money and trusting his instincts. They’re always going to second guess him.”
When it comes to highlighting Jackson’s strengths, Ravens coach John Harbaugh would be foolish not to call plays with Jackson running the ball. Jackson was an outstanding runner in college, and has quickly proven he can do it at the NFL level with his burning speed. Jackson has incredible physical tools when throwing — his quick-flick release is absurd — but, just like any rookie, he’s still getting accustomed to reading the defense.
Here’s an example: his first of two interceptions. Jackson stared down his first option, and targeted Brown despite tight coverage in what appears to be a zone defense. As a result, the ball got deflected and picked off. Growing pains.
The question is how soon Jackson will get the chance to shut up his critics. In order to do that, he’ll probably need to hold onto his starting job when Joe Flacco returns to injury.
With the Ravens fighting for a playoff spot, Jackson could use the coming games to prove his passing abilities, upend what could be racially-charged analysis, steal a starting job and take his team to the playoffs.
Is Jackson up for the challenge?