Lamar Jackson is the most popular man in Baltimore.
In his second season with the Ravens, it’s impossible to *not* see his name everywhere you look. His number eight jersey is quickly becoming as synonymous with the Ravens as Cal Ripken Jr.’s was with the Orioles.
Jackson has taken the NFL by storm in 2019, forcing himself into the MVP debate.
Longtime fan Rick Gibson said the Jackson era has a different feel than the previous Joe Flacco-led team.
“It’s fun coming to games,” he said before Sunday's matchup against the Texans. "A lot better than it has been in the past, so it’s more exciting.”
With the flip of a switch -- or rather, the draft pick of a quarterback -- fan enthusiasm is all of a sudden at an all-time high.
And it starts (and ends) with number eight.
“It’s incredible,” said Ravens fan Jonathan Greene. “Most excited for a Ravens team, and I’ve been a fan for years. It’s awesome. He has elevated this team.”
The words fans use to describe Jackson’s game are all similar. Phenomenal. Awesome. Incredible. Spectacular. Magic.
Jackson’s stats this season speak for themselves: 2,036 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. A 65.9 completion percentage. 702 rushing yards -- 11th-most in the NFL -- and six touchdowns. And of course, a 7-2 record.
Even those who would discount Jackson’s performance as beating up on weak competition are forced to recognize his brilliance. Against the winless Bengals, for example, Next Gen Stats estimated an average quarterback should have a completion percentage of 57.7%, based on how covered his receivers were, how much pressure he was under, and more.
His actual percentage? 88.2%, or 30.5% higher than what was expected. It was the best difference for *any* quarterback in *any* game in 2019.
Fans are excited for the future as well. Not just for the Ravens but for young football fans across the city.
“He’s only 22 years old,” another fan, John Ford, said. “I think he appeals to the younger generation coming up through the high school and college ranks, because they can relate to him...I think he’s a role model for a lot of young kids coming up. And you watch him on the sidelines, he does some great things, but he takes it in stride. So he’s not celebrating too much, he knows what he’s got to do. That’s a unique thing for a young man, only 22 years old, at this level.”
The near future looks more daunting than in the long term. The Ravens enter Week 11 on a five-game winning streak, hoping to win six straight for the first time since 2000.
They are beginning a tough slate of four straight against playoff contenders, but with Jackson leading an unstoppable offense, three or four wins doesn’t seem far-fetched. Regardless of what happens, Jackson has emphatically won over the city of Baltimore and the NFL writ large.
One longtime Ravens fan, Stan Nasiatka, put it best when asked about Jackson.
“That’s all we’re talking about," he said. "It’s everywhere.”
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