Hall of Fame WR Admits Ravens’ Lamar Jackson Has Proved Him Wrong

Lamar Jackson

Getty A Hall of Fame WR has admitted he was wrong about Lamar Jackson.

Lamar Jackson is winning over his detractors with every performance during the 2022 NFL regular season. The franchise quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens is leading the league with 10 touchdown passes, but it’s his running ability that has one doubter admitting he got Jackson all wrong.

Michael Irvin had been among Jackson’s most vociferous doubters at the start of a contract year for the Ravens’ starter. The Hall of Fame wide receiver who won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys expressed concern Jackson was not running enough because he was worried about protecting his next deal.

Irvin made the critique following Week 1’s 24-9 win over the New York Jets, but the 56-year-old admitted he got it wrong after Jackson ran 11 times for 107 yards to help the Ravens beat the New England Patriots 37-26.

Irvin Backtracks on Jackson Concerns

Speaking on an edition of ESPN’s First Take (h/t Ravens Vault podcast co-host Bobby Trosset), Irvin explained why Jackson’s rushing performance against the Pats shut him up:

Irvin’s initial concerns stemmed from Jackson’s six rushing attempts for a modest 17 yards against the Jets. It was a far cry from what the Ravens usually expect to get from the premier dual-threat playmaker in the league.

You can’t blame Irvin for wondering about any correlation between Jackson not running effectively and his uncertain contract status. Baltimore’s QB1 is playing on his fifth-year option and has yet to agree a new deal.

Free agency or the franchise tag await Jackson if fresh terms can’t be agreed, but it’s more likely the Ravens will eventually pay up. More likely because Jackson is already performing like the signal-caller who was named NFL MVP in 2019.

Ironically, it’s the one area Irvin focused on that’s helping Jackson play some of his best football.

Designed QB Runs Still a Big Part of Ravens Offense

If Jackson isn’t worried about risking injury with his next contract at stake, the Ravens aren’t about to keep him in the pocket. Instead, head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have kept designed runs a staple of the playbook.

Against the Patriots, QB power was the favorite way for Jackson to gain yardage in chunks. The concept paid off when the Ravens essentially ran a counter-trey, with the left tackle and guard pulling, to create a hole for Jackson exploited to score in the fourth quarter:

Scheming ways to turn Jackson loose is an easy call for Roman, who also saw his quarterback gash the Miami Dolphins for 119 yards and a touchdown on the ground in Week 2. Letting Jackson run is essential to the way the Ravens play offense.

A credible rushing threat puts defenses in a bind, and nobody is a more credible threat to break a run for a big gain than Jackson. Keeping him in the pocket becomes a priority for every opponent on the schedule.

Those opponents are forced into desperate measures. This season, that means blitzing freely, although the tactic is actually bringing out the best in Jackson, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

There’s nothing in the numbers to suggest Jackson is having second thoughts about putting himself in the firing line to take more hits and risk his next payday. Jackson will know it makes more sense to keep playing the game the way he’s always done.

It’s the way that’s helped him become an elite player the Ravens or some other team will pay big for the right to start for the long haul after this season.