Ravens

Quick Links

Earl Thomas isn’t phased, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

Earl Thomas isn’t phased, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time Earl Thomas was in a Seattle Seahawks uniform, he sat on a medical cart with his broken left leg in a cast and his right middle finger extended toward the Seahawks bench. 

The ugly finish to Thomas' tenure as a Seahawk last September ended a nine year stint as one of the league's best safeties, in the league's best secondaries. Now a Raven, Thomas will return to Seattle on Sunday to face the Seahawks for the first time as an opponent. 

He’s mostly downplayed the situation, but Sunday will undoubtedly be an emotional game for both Thomas and the Seahawks organization. 

“It doesn’t matter who I’m playing for, I’m going out there and trying to win,” Thomas said. “Maybe when I get to the visiting locker room and see how that feels, it’ll add something to that. But other than that, it’s business as usual. I’m going out there to compete and make plays.”

Thomas spent the entirety of his eventual Hall of Fame career in Seattle as a member of the ‘Legion of Boom,’ one of the most famous defensive units in league history.

But his time in Seattle eventually soured as the years rolled on and Kam Chancellor retired, Richard Sherman left town and the unit slowly faded into history. 

That’s before things took a turn with Thomas’ contract and future with the team. After a holdout, he played in four games last season, totaling three interceptions, before breaking his leg and ending his excellent tenure as a Seahawk against the Cardinals. 

“I feel like they’re were trying to phase me out, they were thinking more linebacker-ish,” Thomas said. “They’ve got the three-headed monster with K.J. (Wright), Bobby (Wagner) and (Mychal) Kendricks, obviously coach (Ken) Norton is the D-Coordinator. He’s a linebacker at heart. I understood what was going on.”

As for what reception he thinks he’ll get from the Seattle fans, he’s unsure, but hopeful.

“Hopefully they respect what I’ve done, get a couple of cheers and not too many boos,” Thomas said. “But whatever happens, happens. Hopefully it’s love.”

Thomas has made a big impression on the Ravens just six games into his four-year contract, especially when a player of his stature signs with the Ravens. 

But the way his tenure ended in Seattle is still on the minds of everyone, including a few of his teammates.

“Since Earl’s been here he’s definitely been a pretty calm-mannered guy,” Marlon Humphrey said. “He’s been there for a long time. The thing that flashes, to me, is the little finger thing. I think there will definitely be a little tension there.”

Thomas said hasn’t planned to talk with anyone pregame and instead he’ll wait for it to happen naturally instead. 

But he did say that various members of the Seahawks organization have kept up with him throughout the course of the season.

“Especially guys on defense, some of my old coaches, some of the strength and conditioning staff,” Thomas said. “I’m sure during pregame, or warmups, if I see some guys and we start a conversation, I’m not going to go out there and not talk to anybody.”

Good memories are much easier to come by for Thomas. He was a three-time First Team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Second Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion in Seattle. He paired with Chancellor on the back-end to create one of the most dominant safety pairings in NFL history as the duo helped lead Seattle to the postseason five times. 

The ugly way Thomas' tenure ended is still on the minds of everyone, but was closure, in a way. And Sunday represents the official closing of the book of his story in Seattle.

“I won so many games there, I grew up as a young man there, started when I was 20 years old,” Thomas said. “I’m always going to respect that organization and I’m always going to be a part of it.”

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen face off at crossroads of past and future of NFL

Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen face off at crossroads of past and future of NFL

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hayden Hurst had just been picked 25th overall by the Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft when he left his living room to do some interviews, customary for a team’s top draft choice.

When he returned and looked at his TV, he was teammates with Lamar Jackson.

Hurst, who wasn’t as high-profile of a selection as his future quarterback, knew about Jackson’s story — as every college football player did — before they even became teammates.

“As soon as I saw that I was like, ‘Man that’s so cool,’” Hurst recalled. “You see Lamar in college, the Heisman Trophy winner, the things that he did in college, you’re like, ‘To be on the field with that guy is going to be pretty special.’”

Jackson’s journey to the NFL didn’t end that night, however, as the 2018 NFL Draft gave a special look at the ways that different organizations value quarterbacks, and specifically what characteristics they find valuable when investing in young talent. 

Jackson was selected by the Ravens 32nd overall after he declared for the draft and forewent his senior season.

Earlier in the first round the Bills also traded up to seventh overall, for a quarterback. It was for Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

Allen was, in many ways, the complete opposite from Jackson: He’s 6-foot-5, was a more traditional pocket passer, had played in a pro style offense and has a cannon for an arm.

In the minds of many, Allen fit what a quarterback was supposed to look like, even as a new age of quarterbacks trickled into the league.

Their college careers, however, couldn’t have been more different.

At Louisville, Jackson averaged 346.7 total yards and just over three touchdowns per game as he ran roughshod throughout the country, leading Louisville to as high as the No. 3 ranking the national polls in 2016.

Allen started two full seasons at Wyoming and while he had a promising junior year, his interception totals always were a bit higher than desirable and his completion percentage never eclipsed 57 percent. He was selected to the Mountain West Conference honorable mention team in his senior year.

It was Allen’s physical traits, however, put him at the top of draft boards. 

Jackson’s skillset, while new and exciting, wasn’t something NFL front offices were used to picking high up in the draft for. Allen, a pocket-passing quarterback with a game-changing arm, was familiar.

“It’s like the guy who has dated the girl for 10 years,” Robert Griffin III said. “Yeah, maybe that’s not the right girl for him, maybe that’s not his soulmate. But he’s comfortable. He’s comfortable with that person, so he stays. A lot of people don’t like change. So some of the scouts and GMs and organizations get used to these certain ways of doing things.”

And as Jackson’s career turned professional, questions persisted about Jackson’s long-term viability in the NFL. Some said he should change positions (which has sparked many a t-shirt from the Ravens players about his “potential” at running back), others questioned just how translatable his stats were to the NFL.

“He was the best player in college football,” Hurst said. “The year he didn’t win the Heisman, his stats were even better than when he did win the Heisman. So it’s crazy how that stuff works. When he was in college, he was the best player in the country. The stuff that he did was just remarkable.”

Most of the NFL, including the Ravens, passed on the opportunity to take Jackson in the first round. In fact, the Ravens traded back twice from 16 to 22, and then from 22 to 25, before selecting Hurst. Finally, they traded up into the first round to select Jackson. 

While the Ravens certainly weren’t the only team interested in Jackson’s skillset, they were the most aggressive. And through nearly two seasons, the move has been a home run.

Jackson is just 63 yards away from breaking Michael Vick’s single season rushing record for a quarterback of 1,039 yards. 

He’s second in the NFL in touchdown passes (25) and is on-pace for 3,376 yards passing, 33 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 66.5 percent. He’s also on-pace for 1,303 yards on the ground with nine touchdowns. 

That would mean he’d end the year with 4,679 total yards, 42 touchdowns and eight turnovers. 

So while Jackson’s season might change perceptions about mobile quarterbacks, there aren’t many athletes that replicate what Jackson does on the field.

“I think it changes a little bit, but at the same time, there’s no one else that’s like Lamar,” Mark Andrews, a 2018 Ravens draft pick, said. “There’s no one that’s going to be able to replicate what he’s being able to do.” 

And the problem with finding a replica Lamar Jackson is simply that they don’t exist.

In a twist, Allen has become an efficient runner in the NFL — not to the extent of Jackson — but has been able to extend plays with his legs more than he did at Wyoming.

Allen has rushed for 35.8 yards per game this year, slightly behind his 52.6 yard pace from last season.

His passing numbers have improved as well, as his completion percentage has broken 60 percent and his touchdown-to-interception ratio has improved to 2:1.

But while Allen, Jackson and the class of 2018 will forever be linked, Jackson doesn’t keep tabs on how his draft counterparts are faring across the league. 

“I’m focused on what we have going on, what we have in front of us,” Jackson said. “I focus on myself and my teammates. I don’t really care about what other people have going on, to be honest.”

So while Jackson downplays the 2018 draft and his impact on the league at-large, the decision to pass on Jackson — for any reason — is one that’s making teams reconsider what they missed. 

And those decisions have left Jackson, whether or not he’ll admit it publicly, motivated to prove people wrong.

“I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but I can only imagine that it would,” Hurst said. “If I was in that situation, I know that it’d fire me up quite a bit. He’s not super vocal about stuff like that, he just goes about his business quietly, but I’m sure it definitely fuels his fire a little bit. Hey, I’m all for it because he’s playing his [expletive] off right now.”

Quick Links

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson didn’t grow up watching Michael Vick play football in Atlanta. He was too young. 

That didn't stop Jackson, born when Vick had just finished his sophomore year of high school, from studying Vick's highlight tapes as a kid.

Now, on Sunday in Buffalo, Jackson has the chance to put his name in the record books ahead of his favorite player with the most impressive season a quarterback has ever had on the ground. 

With just 63 yards rushing, Jackson would rank first all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. The record, as of Thursday, is held by Vick with 1,039 yards rushing. Vick set the record in 2006 with the Falcons.

“It would be an honor,” Jackson said. “Like I said, Michael Vick is my favorite player. For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win, regardless.”

Jackson has led the NFL’s most dynamic offense through the first 12 games with a mix of rushing and passing that’s kept defenses on their heels. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 977 yards, which is more than five teams have as a whole.

Currently, Jackson has rushed for 1,672 yards in 28 games in his NFL career, good for 44th all-time. 

Over a 16-game season, he’s on pace for 1,302 yards on the ground, which would shatter Vick’s old record and put Jackson in another stratosphere compared to some of the best mobile quarterbacks the league has ever seen. 

Should he finish with 1,302 yards this year, he’ll be at 1,997 yards through his first two NFL seasons. That would put him 32nd all-time and about 500 yards away from cracking the top 20. 

So as Jackson adds to his place in history in the long term, there’s a significant record to break in the short-term, too.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: