Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson could not have fallen into a better situation than the one he was drafted into with the Ravens, according to analyst Sean Salisbury, a quarterback in the NFL and CFL from 1986-1996.
Salisbury, now a host on SportsTalk 790 and former analyst for ESPN, got the chance to watch Jackson when the Ravens dominated the Houston Texans, 41-7, as Jackson put every facet of his game on display.
“Nobody thought he’d be this good this fast and anybody that’s on the other side of it is a liar,” Salisbury said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 22. “He wasn’t a wide receiver, he’s a quarterback and I believed that all along. He just needed the right system, the right people and the right opportunity.”
Jackson has thrown for 2,427 yards and 24 touchdowns with a league-leading 81.9 QBR. He’s also accounted for 876 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while averaging 7.1 yards per carry. More so than anything, Salisbury believes that Jackson has intangible qualities that have shown in his performances against top-level competition.
“He looked Russell Wilson in the face and outplayed him,” Salisbury said. “He looked Patrick Mahomes in the face and almost beat him on the road. He destroyed Deshaun Watson and the Texans, and he destroyed Tom Brady and the Patriots. So, he’s taken on the best. It’s like the heavyweight, ‘All comers, let’s go,’ and he’s knocked them out to get to a chance to fight the heavyweight champion, whoever that’s going to be when the season is over.”
Salisbury believes the Ravens go as Jackson goes and that any doubters still clinging onto their opinions of him need to give it a rest.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him, number one, and actually you lose credibility with me right now if you can’t give the kid credit,” Salisbury said. “… There’s always something, but I know this, right now he’s as valuable to his team as anybody in the league. They run the ball and play defense, sure, but I’ve got news for you: Even with running the ball and defense they aren’t where they are without Lamar Jackson.”
But Jackson is not the only special player on this Ravens team, according to former head coach Brian Billick, a member of the team’s Ring of Honor. As a coach who has been around the likes of players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, Billick believes the defense has really come along as that unit continues to improve every week. The Ravens are 11th in the league in total defense (322.7 yards per game).
“Everybody is all gaga about Lamar and what they’re doing offensively, and they should be, it’s spectacular,” Billick said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 22. “What’s being hidden is how this defense has really come on.”
The Ravens are formidable in the secondary with cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Marcus Peters and safety Earl Thomas, but Billick says not to forget about how well the team’s defensive front has played, particularly defensive tackle Brandon Williams. The Ravens are third in the NFL in rushing defense (78.1 yards per game)
Billick said the Week 4 loss to the Cleveland Browns showed how important Williams is to the Ravens’ success. Williams was out with a knee injury.
“I was at that Browns game and I watched that Browns team literally run up and down the field on the Ravens in a way that I didn’t think I would ever see any team do and throw the ball as well,” Billick said. “But ran for 193 yards and Brandon Williams wasn’t in. And then you look at what they’ve done [since then] and what they’ve done to running games and just [shows] the point of how dominant and how important Brandon Williams is.”
Billick also believes that the defense’s success has a lot to do with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Mesmerized with the different fronts and looks that Ravens’ defense has presented so far this season, Billick is fascinated with how unique Martindale’s system is and how effective he is at putting his players in the best position to make plays.
“It’s amazing,” Billick said. “First off, you can’t figure out who’s coming because it’s not just — there’s obviously the lineman and the linebackers — but any of the secondary. You’re going to see Humphrey blitz. You’re going to see [safety Chuck] Clark come. You’re going to see Thomas come. You’re going to see Brandon Carr come off the slot.”
Feeling good about Jackson and the defense, Salisbury wasn’t shy about his confidence in the Ravens.
“Right now, the Ravens are the best team in the AFC and may very well be the best team in the NFL,” Salisbury said, “and their quarterback is a big reason for it.”
For more from Salisbury, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Billick, listen to the full interview here:
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