Is Lamar Jackson under pressure in 2023?
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is approaching his sixth overall season in the NFL, as he looks to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl, a game Baltimore hasn’t participated in since winning it in 2012 (Super Bowl XLVII vs. 49ers). After an eventful offseason in Baltimore that consisted of a new contract and added offensive weaponry, is the former NFL MVP under pressure this upcoming season?
Jackson has accomplished impressive accolades during his career thus far, but has yet to been able to take the Ravens to at least a conference title game. The former Louisville quarterback was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, and has since been Baltimore’s heart and soul. Jackson took over as starting quarterback by relieving former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco due to a hip injury he suffered in Week 9 of the 2018 season. Jackson led the Ravens to a 6-1 record to close out the season as the starter. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner became the youngest quarterback to play in a playoff game (21), but unfortunately struggled in the Wild-Card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers (only 25 passing yards in first half).
The 2019 season was Jackson’s best season, as he won the NFL MVP award unanimously. In 2019, Jackson led Baltimore to a 14-2 record (AFC No. 1 seed), led the league in passing touchdowns (36), and rushed for the most yards in a single season by a quarterback (1,206), respectively. Baltimore earned a first-round bye by being the conference’s No. 1 seed, but eventually lost in a divisional round home playoff game against the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans. In 2020, the former NFL MVP led the Ravens to another post season run, as they defeated the Titans in a Wild-Card round rematch from the playoffs a season ago. The Ravens advanced to the divisional round and faced off against the Buffalo Bills in a losing effort, with Jackson throwing a crucial pick-six late in the third quarter and then suffered a concussion later in the game and did not return.
Jackson is accredited for his elite-level elusiveness, speed, and ability to extend plays similar to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The criticism of Jackson stems from his “run first” style of play he exhibits on the field. Jackson’s play style is effective, but risky to say the least as injuries can occur more frequently as a dual-threat quarterback. In 2022, Jackson suffered an MCL sprain that sidelined him for the final 6 games of the regular season and a playoff matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, Jackson played only 12 games in each of the past two seasons (’21-’22) due to nagging injuries.
Over the course of Jackson’s career, he has yet to toss for at least 4,000 passing yards in today’s pass-happy league (3,127 passing yards career-high, 2019). In Jackson’s defense, Baltimore hasn’t surrounded the former first-team all-pro passer with solid offensive weaponry until this year’s offseason. Since the NFL offseason commenced, the Ravens signed former New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr, former Philadelphia Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor and drafted speedy wideout Zay Flowers (22nd pick in the 2023 NFL draft). Alongside the new offensive additions is pass catcher Rashod Bateman (underwent foot surgery during the offseason) and one of the league’s best tight end Mark Andrews.
Jackson received a lucrative five-year, $260 million dollar contract with the Ravens during the offseason after months of contract disputes between both Jackson and the Ravens organization. Baltimore were reluctant to sign Jackson to a long-term deal due to his availability and injury history, but now that both parties are on the same page, it’s time for Jackson to produce results for the franchise.
The pressure for the former NFL passing touchdown leader comes from his ability to stay healthy throughout the entire season and to lead the Ravens to a deep playoff run, as Jackson’s playoff record is 1-3 as a starter and has yet to lead the team to at least a conference championship game appearance.
Jackson’s counterparts at quarterback in the AFC conference include Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who has led the Chiefs to five straight AFC championship game appearances (’18-’22) and two Super Bowl victories (LIV and LVII), Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen, who led the Bills to an AFC championship game appearance (2020) and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who has led the Bengals to two consecutive AFC championship game appearances (’21-’22) and a Super Bowl berth (LVI), respectively.
The former first-round pick has a lot to prove in 2023 after signing one of the richest deals in NFL history, the organization signing solid offensive talent around him and a well-grounded defense that is centered around 2022 first-team all-pro linebacker Roquan Smith. Jackson is arguably the most electrifying player in the NFL, but he must produce big-time this upcoming season.