To be fair, Lamar Jackson himself is to blame for the continuation of the overblown concern and subsequent chatter regarding his ability to perform all duties expected of an NFL quarterback.
Jackson’s “not bad for a running back” comment after the Ravens’ season-opening dismantling of the Dolphins last week was understandable, especially after he threw five touchdowns and recorded a perfect passer rating to silence those he views as remaining doubters. The Baltimore QB’s performance in a 23-17 victory over the Cardinals in Week 2, though, should create a new question.
“Can Lamar Jackson throw the ball?” — a concern that should have been silenced long before Jackson buried Arizona on Sunday with a 41-yard, third-down, fourth-quarter dime to Hollywood Brown — needs to be replaced by, “Is Lamar Jackson on his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL?”
WATCH: Jackson’s best plays against Cardinals
Including the aforementioned strike that all but won the game for the Ravens on Sunday, Jackson added 272 passing yards to make his new season total 596 through two games. His two touchdown passes against the Cardinals bring his total in that category to seven.
Against Arizona, though, Jackson also flashed the situational rushing talent that makes him such a potentially great player.
According to NFL research, Jackson on Sunday became the first player since the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson to record 250-plus passing yards, 100-plus rushing yards and zero turnovers. Wilson accomplished that feat in his third season; he hasn’t done it since, but he has been selected to three Pro Bowls since.
Further, according to ESPN Stats and Info, Jackson on Sunday became sixth player since the 1970 NFL merger to record at least 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a single game. Only Cam Newton (three times), Colin Kaepernick, Marcus Mariota, Wilson and Michael Vick have done that.
And, one more, just for kicks: Jackson on Sunday became first player in NFL history to record 120-plus rushing yards (120 on the dot) and 250-plus passing yards in the same game.
Jackson’s rushing production against the Cardinals was, he says, “just (taking) what the defense gave (him),” which is a frightening development for the rest of the league. As are the words of former Baltimore pass-rusher Terrell Suggs, who was one of many Arizona players attempting to contain Jackson.
“He’s an NFL quarterback now,” Suggs told media after the game, “and he’s phenomenal.”
Added Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury: “You all watched Lamar make great throws all day from the pocket, so he has improved dramatically there. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. He is standing there and can throw it, and can beat you that way and with his legs.”
At this point, there are more facts to support the idea that Jackson has a chance to be a special NFL QB than there are to support the notion that he might struggle as he develops. The stats above are a good start. And there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, with Sunday’s late third-down throw being one of the strongest examples yet.
The Ravens are now 8-2 in games Jackson has started dating to last season. One loss came in the wild-card round of the playoffs, at home vs. the Chargers. The other came in Week 14 at Kansas City, where Jackson’s Ravens lost by three points to NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs.
In a poetic scheduling coincidence, Jackson and the Ravens will return to Kansas City for a matchup against the Chiefs next week.
WATCH: Full Ravens vs. Cardinals highlights
Jackson recorded a passer rating of 100.5 against the Chiefs last season, his second-best mark among his 2018 starts. If he were to record the same rating in Week 3 this season, it would be his third-best in three games.
The record-breaking numbers Jackson is putting up early this season are the fruits of an offseason Baltimore spent developing its QB in terms of both his skills and the talent that surrounds him. Jackson through two games has already proved he is equipped to do everything asked of him in Baltimore’s offense, and apparently more. There should be no more doubt about that.
The question now — and one that can be addressed again when Jackson takes the field in Kansas City — is whether he is sneaking into Mahomes’ echelon of NFL quarterbacks.