It’s sometimes tough to write a column about the Ravens in 2019 because there is sensitivity (perhaps even fairly to an extent) about the topic at hand. The search for subtext has been as prevalent as the willingness to consider the actual text.
Example? If the commentary plainly reads “Lamar Jackson is doing a phenomenal job of running the football,” to a certain sect the reaction will be “stop saying Lamar can’t throw the ball!” despite the fact that, obviously, the commentary never suggested as such. To be clear, that sensitivity isn’t wholly unfounded. It is rooted in decades of truly unfair commentary (overwhelmingly) regarding black quarterbacks.
So I want to be particularly careful in presenting this take, because I absolutely do not want there to be any room for the presumption of subtext.
Lamar Jackson is an absolutely spectacular NFL quarterback. He is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons a quarterback has put together in recent memory. There are no qualifiers needed for these statements. Simply put, this is breathtaking, MVP-caliber quarterbacking.
There is great joy among a number of Jackson and Ravens fans in seeing the quarterback silence his critics this season. But even those statements are somewhat trite in measuring the second-year signal caller’s accomplishments. A large number of Jackson’s “critics” were nothing more than trolls whose opinions were never worthy of the bandwidth they took up. A notion that Jackson “couldn’t throw” or “wasn’t a quarterback” was theater of the absurd, and we should have never allowed such nonsense any amount of sunlight.
What truly has been remarkable this season however is watching how Jackson has answered even the truly legitimate criticism he has faced. His inconsistency throwing outside the numbers last year? A non-factor this season. His penchant for fumbling as a rookie? Apparently totally fixed. Is he a perfect football player? Well, probably not, but he hasn’t been far from it this season.
There is no subtext here. But there is further text if you’re willing to read on.
You see, I’m afraid that in our completely justified rush to create every ounce of Lamar Jackson content humanly possible — the dankest sunglasses memes, the reverse slow-motion GIFs, the snarkiest comments used to drag the haters, the ongoing loops of Jackson saying “Mazel Tov” on Cameo — we’ve kinda missed a bigger picture thing that’s occurring here.
Which, of course, is that as much as this is about Jackson and how incredible he’s been, it’s equally not entirely about Jackson. This entire team has played incredibly well, and there are 52 other players who probably deserve a SMIDGE more credit that has been lost because we’re (again, I stress, understandably) obsessed with the quarterback.
During the Ravens’ five-game win streak, Jackson has played extraordinarily well in all facets of the game. That’s been aided a group of tight ends that (save for Mark Andrews in Seattle) have both blocked and caught the football extraordinarily well. And it isn’t just that they’re catching the balls they’re supposed to catch, which alone would be worthy of significant praise. They’re also catching the balls thrown unexpectedly from impossible angles that they might not have seen coming. They’re also catching the balls that are zipped in with wild pace in short yardage. They’re catching just about everything.
And the offensive line continues to impose its will up front to set the stage for a dominant rushing attack. And the running backs continue to set the tone while largely protecting the football. And the run defense continues to prove that what happened against the Browns can mostly be dismissed as an anomaly due to Brandon Williams’ absence. And the inside linebacker duo of L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes continues to perform beyond any reasonable expectation. And Matthew Judon, in particular, continues to apply pressure at a rate that should make him rather wealthy come free agency this offseason.
And the secondary. Holy hell, the secondary. Randy Johnson thinks this is an amazing unit.
And if he ever got another chance to try, I’m sure Sam Koch would still be punting at a high level. Justin Tucker has gotten so bored that he’s apparently trying to hit all three bars on extra points just to stay fresh.
As we shower Lamar Jackson with both praise (and if he’d like, our first AND second born), let’s not lose sight of the work Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey are doing, too. Let’s not forget how Hayden Hurst has silenced his doubters, too.
Reminder, this is an “and” situation. This isn’t a “but” qualification. Lamar Jackson may well be the MVP of the NFL this season AND the rest of the roster deserves a bit more credit than they’re getting because we have a case of Lamar Jackson Fever that has crippled us even more than the seasonal allergies that have left us unable to breathe.
And in the content department — did NONE of you try to make something like this? Shame.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox