When the Titans and Ravens square off in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday, their respective defensive units will be well-aware of the task at hand. The Ravens will have to slow down Titans running back Derrick Henry and the Titans will have to contain Lamar Jackson, a week after they both made NFL rushing history.
Who the bigger threat will be was the topic of discussion on Monday's edition of the ESPN show "NFL Live." Analyst and former Washington defensive back Ryan Clark never had the misfortune of meeting either player on the field (Clark retired in 2015, before Henry or Jackson came into the league), but he did offer up his opinion on the matter.
“It’s more challenging to defend Lamar because of the extra added element of the quarterback run,” he said. But Clark was quick to clarify that he was speaking from the perspective of a defensive coordinator rather than that of a defensive player.
“Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to stand in front of Derrick Henry. Hell, most people don’t want to stand on the side of him because he’s got that go-go-gadget stiff arm that ends up having you embarrassed in front of your entire family.”
The Ravens defense is more than familiar with that “go-go-gadget stiff arm” after giving up 133 yards to Henry in their Week 11 loss to the Titans. They’ll also be aware of the fact that Henry just became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season.
As a 6-foot-3, 238-pound running back that can clock a 4.54 forty-yard dash, Henry is built like a created character in Madden. But another player putting up video game numbers heading into the postseason is Lamar Jackson.
During Jackson’s playoff-clinching performance against the Bengals on Sunday, he became the first quarterback with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. In his MVP season a year ago, he ran for 1,206 yards, and when the Ravens offense finished torching Cincinnati for 38 points on Sunday, Jackson had 1,005 rushing yards on the year.
“When you look at Lamar Jackson and what he can do, how he’s helped JK Dobbins ascend to be one of the best rookie runners in the league, the way this total offensive game plan and total rushing plan revolves around him, and the fear factor that he adds with his speed, and also with the unpredictability of whose going to get the ball, where it will go and who will be blocking, that is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator,” Clark said.
There’s no doubt that Jackson’s mobility, coupled with his elite passing ability, has been a key factor in the overall success of the Ravens' offense and a problem for those tasked with scheming against the Ravens.
In the last five games of the season, they rushed for 1,337 yards, the most ever in a five-game stretch in the Super Bowl era, and nothing suggests they plan to stop.