Lamar Jackson is about to make a second straight season of a breakout second-year QB winning NFL MVP.
There are still five weeks left in the 2019 NFL regular season after Jackson’s now 9-2 Ravens ripped the Rams 45-6 in Week 12 and there are several other quarterbacks, led by Russell Wilson, having banner years to lift their teams. There’s also one special running back — Christian McCaffrey — piling up legendary modern numbers.
But no matter how great the rest of the pack looks, Jackson is quite literally running away with — and also passing himself to —the league’s highest individual award, succeeding Patrick Mahomes in 2019. The live eye test and highlight tapes are two things, but they are backed up by plenty of statistical evidence to solidify Jackson as the most impressive and important player in the NFL, therefore ushering in a new most valuable player.
If you still weren’t a believer going into Week 12, Jackson should have convinced with you a ‘Monday Night Football’ performance for the ages in Los Angeles: 15-of-20 passing, 169 yards, 5 TDs, 139.4 passer rating, 8 carries, 95 yards rushing. These are all the awesome numbers for Jackson that make the MVP debate an open-and-shut case.
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Lamar Jackson, the running back
OK, we’re poking a little fun here at those who suggested Jackson was better off giving up QB in the NFL after winning the Heisman at Louisville and pursuing playing wide receiver instead. Jackson still does play another “position” along with quarterback, and he does it at an extremely high level.
Jackson went into Week 12 ranked No. 11 in the NFL in rushing yardage for the season with 781 yards. He now has 876 yards. He leads his own team, right ahead of Mark Ingram, who was No. 12 before getting up to 778 yards against the Rams. Of all qualified runners, through his 124 attempts, Jackson now averages a league-best 7.1 yards per carry. He was tied for first with eight runs of 20 or more yards on the season going into Week 12, and added a 29-yard burst against the Rams. His six rushing TDs went in tied for 10th.
Jackson is on pace for 1,274 rushing yards through 11 games. That would shatter the NFL single-season mark for a QB, Michael Vick’s 1,039 yards in 2006. He’s on pace for 9 rushing TDs, one shy of the total Cam Newton had during his 2015 MVP campaign. Jackson has already rushed for more yards than Newton ever has in a single season.
There’s more on Jackson vs. Vick and Jackson vs. Newton. Jackson has rushed for 60 or more yards in eight consecutive games, breaking a mark set by Vick in 2004. Jackson also has 1,558 rushing yards in his career, surpassing what Newton did in 2011-12 for the most by a QB over his first two NFL seasons.
Jackson, going into the Rams matchup, was only 24 rushing yards shy of being the first player in NFL history to eclipse 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons. He took care of that in the first half. So what we’re seeing isn’t only special to 2019, but it holds up as one of the most remarkable individual performances the pro game has ever seen, like we have never seen it from the game’s most important position.
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Lamar Jackson, the passer
Jackson never completed 60 percent or more of his passes in any of his three college seasons at Louisville, including during his Heisman Trophy campaign in 2016. He went into Week 12 at No. 11 in the NFL at 66.3 percent, and that’s up to 66.9 percent. He also is No. 6 in yards per attempt at 8.1 and now has a passer rating of 111,4, tied for third. He leads the NFL with 8 percent of his pass attempts going for touchdowns.
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Jackson became only the second QB to post a perfect traditional NFL passer rating (158.3) in two games (Dolphins Week 1, Bengals Week 10) in a single season, joining Steelers rival Ben Roehtlisberger, who did it 12 years ago.
Since ESPN devised its QBR (total quarterback rating) in 2006, the league leader in that metric has won NFL MVP seven times. Jackson (78.2) before Week 12, was No. 1 and will stay there, currently edging Mahomes, who was tied for the league lead last season when he won.
Jackson has had two turnover-filled games — a Week 4 loss to the Browns (two INTs) and a Week 5 rebound win over the Steelers (three INTs). He has zero turnovers in eight of 10 games. He has yet to throw an interception in the red zone this season.
Lamar Jackson, most of the Ravens’ offense
When you add Jackson’s 2,427 passing yards this season to his rushing total in 2019 you get 3,303 total yards produced.
The Ravens had accumulated 4,286 yards as a team before facing the Rams. Jackson was accounting for 71 percent of that output. He’s also leading the league with his average of 16.4 points scored per game (30 total TDs), which represents 46.6 percent of the Ravens’ league-leading 386 points.
Jackson set a record for a quarterback with his 147 rushing attempts as late-developing starter as a rookie in 2018. He’s on pace to carry a significantly bigger load for his team, 180 carries, this season.
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Lamar Jackson, the winner
For those don’t believe “wins” are a quarterback stat, too bad, because the ability to deliver against high-quality opponents is the foundation for an MVP case and for assessing the position that dominates the award. It’s now become a standard part of winning the Heisman, too — whether you bring your best in the biggest games.
Jackson, in the three of the past four games, was the better overall QB on the field in head-to-head wins over Wilson’s Seahawks, Tom Brady’s Patriots and Deshaun Watson’s Texans. In the first game, at Seattle, he rushed for 116 yards in a hostile environment. Because of Jackson, the Ravens won those games by a combined 108-43, averaging 36 points per game with an average margin of victory of nearly 22 points.
Jackson is trying to become the ninth player to win both the Heisman for the peak of his college career and NFL MVP. Newton was the last to do it in 2015. Jackson would become the third QB to pull off the double, joining Newton and Cowboys Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.
The only question for Jackson is staying healthy, and for his Ravens to keep winning. After the Rams, they have one more big “prove-it” game this Sunday against the 9-1 49ers.
However you add it up, Jackson has a ridiculous statisitical resume and is the most indispensable player in the NFL this season, given he’s operating and dominating in an offense built around his strengths. Just as the Chiefs’ system and Mahomes led to perfect harmony, Jackson is hitting a high note with the Ravens that no one else can match.