OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson has excelled this season at keeping opposing defenses on their toes.
The problem is it keeps his teammates in limbo, too.
Jackson is one of the shiftiest players in the NFL, and when he breaks the pocket, there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do. That means there’s no way of knowing what the next step is as an offensive player, either.
“One of the best things about Lamar is how versatile a quarterback he is,” wide receiver Miles Boykin said. “No play is ever dead. We have two plays every time we step out there. If the first play doesn’t work, Lamar is going to find something with his feet or he’s going to find something on a scramble.”
Jackson has 576 yards rushing and three touchdowns so far this season and is on pace for over 1,300 yards rushing on the season.
Sunday in Seattle, his legs carried the Ravens to a 30-16 win over the Seahawks. And while Seahawk defenders tried their best to slow Jackson down, his teammates did their best to anticipate.
“You just let him do his thing,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “That’s about the easiest way you could say it. Block them as long as we can, if he breaks the pocket and he goes, obviously try to cover him as much as we can down the field.”
As an offensive line, the Ravens' front five must make a determination once Jackson breaks the pocket on what to do. They could go downfield to try to get a step on the defense and risk an illegal man downfield penalty, or stay back and protect Jackson if he decides to set and pass the ball.
Sometimes, though, Jackson makes the decision easy.
“I think if they’re ever in that situation and they feel a breeze going by them, they say, ‘Hey let’s go,’” offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said with a chuckle. "We better follow that breeze.”
After the original play breaks down, Jackson’s ability to extend sometimes leaves his teammates wondering exactly what he’ll do next.
“Sometimes he’s scrambling, and we’re all out there like, ‘Do we block? Do we try to get open?’” Mark Ingram explained. “You’re trying to be there for him, but he’s just doing crazy stuff.”
When Jackson breaks out of the pocket and the Ravens officially head into a scramble drill, there’s a few set tips that help the rest of the offensive weapons.
Marquise Brown says he has a set responsibility — but can’t share exactly what it is. Willie Snead was a high school quarterback, so he’s at least got some idea of what Jackson wants to do when he breaks the pocket.
The only thing the Ravens can do is drill it and expect the unexpected when he breaks the pocket, because they certainly don’t want to quell what makes Jackson so special.
“You definitely don’t want to dull that,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “You want to let it happen naturally, let his natural talent take over.”
As a receiver, the main job is to get open. Whatever happens after that is up to Jackson.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do half the time,” Boykin said. “I just have one job, and that’s to get open. If you get open, Lamar is going to find you.”
While the Ravens’ offense might have trouble locating — and deciding — Jackson’s next move, it’s been enough to keep opposing defenses at bay. And Baltimore will take that trade-off every day of the week.
“We don’t know where Lamar is going to be,” D'Alessandris said. “We have a good idea, but if he’s elusive enough to move, sustain your block and let things happen. I think that’s worked out pretty good for us so far.”
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