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Armando Salguero: Lamar Jackson — An Elite NFL Player Who’s Developed Into An Elite NFL Passer

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Can we settle the Lamar Jackson issue already? Put it to bed once and for all?

Because Lamar is not a running back playing quarterback. He has not been figured out by NFL defenses. His development as a passer has not stagnated.

Lamar Jackson is clearly an elite NFL player who has joined the ranks of elite NFL passers.

“He’s just scratching the surface of how good he could be,” Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Monday evening. “I think he’s still, what? Twenty-four years old? This is crazy.

“I know he’s notorious for what he can do with his legs. And I feel like he’s gotten a lot of disrespect about his arm talent. I think a lot of people are eating their words right now and it feels good to see, because I see it in practice. I saw it in practice all last year, see it in practice all this year, and it’s great to see in big games, big moments, on Monday Night Football, man. It’s huge.”

Lamar did indeed deliver a huge performance on national television. He led the Ravens to a 31-25 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts but what was amazing about this wasn’t so much what Lamar did it.

It was how he did it.

He did it passing the football — at a record-breaking level.

Lamar completed 37 of 43 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns. The passing yardage is a new franchise record.

And the Ravens needed every inch of that yardage and every point from those touchdowns to complete a breakneck rally that saw them erase a 22-3 deficit with three minutes left in the third quarter, and then a 25-9 deficit with 12 minutes to play.

Facing that seemingly dire situation, Lamar had to throw the football. And the Colts knew he had to throw the football.

That’s when the same quarterback who completed a modest 8 of 11 passes for 107 yards in the first half simply went off.

Lamar attempted 32 passes in the second half and overtime and completed 29 of them. All his touchdown passes came after halftime.

“It was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And it wasn’t easy. I mean, it wasn’t like we came out and went up and down the field.

“We had to overcome and fight through some things. He was under pressure. He created plays with his feet. He threw the ball away when he had to throw it away.

“Then once we started going into our fast-mode, no-huddle, two-minute type mode, he just came alive and all of our guys did. All the guys made plays and our offensive line — but it starts with Lamar and he deserves the credit.”

The Ravens scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions late in the third quarter, into the fourth quarter, and then in overtime. Each of those culminated with a Lamar TD pass.

And this wasn’t lucky craziness going on. One of those scoring drives included 11 plays while another had 10 plays. Lamar completed passes short, intermediate and deep, as on the 43-yard touchdown to Marquise Brown.

And in completing pass after pass, Lamar authored his 86 percent completion rate, which made him the first NFL quarterback ever to complete 85 percent of his passes while also throwing for 400 yards.

“Dang,” Lamar exclaimed when he heard of the accomplishment. “I ain’t going to really say I was in a zone, but I was locked in. I was calm. Everything was just moving slow.”

That’s not all.

The comeback victory delivers to Lamar his 34th career victory, and that ties him with Dan Marino for most career wins before the age of 25. Except Lamar won’t turn 25 until January.

“I’m up there with the gods, you know, it’s an honor to be up there with those guys,” Lamar said. “But I’m focused on winning. I appreciate the accolade, though.”

As important as winning is, the narrative about Lamar since he entered the NFL in 2018 has been how he typically wins — using his feet. Well, hit delete on that.

“We got one win down,” Lamar said, “not running, threw the ball.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

2 Comments

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  1. Pro Football Focus ranks Lamar Jackson 5th in passing grade. They rank him ahead of Murray, Tannehill, Burrow, Prescott and Mahomes to name a few.
    He has been a pleasant surprise. I thought he would have taken some hits and slow down by now.
    He is doing very well with limited receivers.

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