ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler explained the comments he made recently on “Get Up” about Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, pointing to concerns that people around the league have about the fourth-year passer’s ability to both carry the Ravens in come-from-behind situations and make the throws necessary for a deep playoff run.
ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark and Fowler took part in a “Get Up” segment Aug. 20 in which both were asked which quarterbacks they thought were under the most pressure entering 2021. After Clark offered his opinion, Fowler chimed in.
“There are a lot of people around the league that I speak to that are talking a little slick. They say this might be the year that everyone figures out Lamar Jackson,” Fowler said in the segment. “There’s sort of that feeling right now. He can definitely prove that wrong, but I think there’s a little bit of pressure on him right now.”
Jackson was asked during his press conference Aug. 24 whether teams would figure him out this year.
“I’m going to keep playing football,” Jackson said. “We’re going to see, but I doubt it, though. I strongly doubt it.”
Jackson’s story is well documented. The Louisville legend won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and was drafted by the Ravens in the first round (No. 32 overall) in 2018. He is 30-7 in the regular season since taking over as the Ravens’ starting quarterback in the middle of 2018, leading the Ravens to two division titles and three playoff appearances in the process. He earned NFL MVP honors in 2019.
But the Ravens are 1-3 in the playoffs with Jackson, and the three losses have looked similar, with opponents securing a lead, forcing the Ravens away from their historic running game and making Jackson beat them through the air. The Ravens have scored 17, 12, 20 and 3 points in their four playoff games since the 2018 season.
Jackson did lead the Ravens back from a 10-0 first-half deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round in January, but concerns still persist around the league about Jackson’s ability to lead come-from-behind wins, according to Fowler.
Earlier this year, Fowler surveyed more than 50 people around the league — coaches, executives, scouts and players — about the top quarterbacks in the league, giving him insight into what those around the league think about Jackson.
“I think the questions that some teams have is if they get behind, can Lamar throw 40, 50 times and win games and bring them from behind with his arm? That is a legitimate question, and I don’t know the answer to that,” Fowler said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 24. “Maybe he answers that this year, and I hope he does.”
Jackson finished as the No. 8 quarterback in the league in Fowler’s survey, down from No. 6 the year prior. Jackson threw for 2,757 yards and 26 touchdowns on 64.4 percent passing, all of which were down from his MVP season. Fowler did allow that it’s not fair to expect Jackson to produce MVP-caliber seasons every year.
“He’s a heck of a player and without question a top-seven-to-ten quarterback in the NFL,” Fowler said. “When you win an MVP in Year Two, the expectation is this guy’s going to be one of the best. I just don’t think most teams view him that way, fair or not. He doesn’t get a lot of top-five votes when you talk to every team in the league. It’s just the way it is, and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean you can’t win a championship with him. He’s a great player.”
But to win a Super Bowl, the Ravens will have to string together three or four postseason wins. The issues the Ravens have had in the playoffs have been dissected at length the past few years.
Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner said in January that while offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s run-heavy system is the best fit for Jackson, “the bottom line is, most teams when you get to the playoffs, you’re going to have to win a game away from your strength.”
NFL Films executive producer Greg Cosell suggested in January that “to be a great offense that wins in the playoffs and gets to Super Bowls … the run game and the pass game need to operate independently of one another on any given Sunday,” meaning that the Ravens have to do a better job in obvious passing situations.
Fowler said he talked to an NFL cornerback about whether the Ravens need to help Jackson out by becoming more creative on offense. The Ravens threw a league-low 406 times last year, resulting in a league-low 171.2 yards per game through the air.
“Maybe that’s part of the issue — they haven’t given him enough, they’ve relied so much on the run-heavy stuff,” Fowler said. “You run the ball well, that will create some better matchups in the passing game if you get that balance and get more man coverage opportunities you can take advantage of. Despite all that, there are just still some major questions about whether Lamar can be enough of an accurate passer to make deep runs in the playoffs.”
To hear more from Fowler, listen to the full interview here:
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