Lamar Jackson in this generation’s Michael Vick. Or the closest thing to it, anyway. In the same winner that Vick electrified the NFL scene in 2001 and full-time in 2002, Jackson did near two decades later. He’s even just as unstoppable in Madden 20 as Vick was in Madden 2004.
Both have similar play-styles. Both run just about as fast (about a 4.3 40-yard dash), and both looked to run before they passed the ball, at least in the beginning.
The biggest, glaring difference between to two outside of the era they played in – mobile quarterbacks are a bit more common now than in the early 2000s – is their arm strength and that Vick was more of a passer, in his first season, surprisingly, than Jackson was in his debut last year.
So, it’s no surprise that the most exciting mobile quarterback of our era is telling the now second-year Ravens quarterback to chill with the running a little bit, speaking from experience. On Tuesday’s episode of Undisputed, Vick talked about Jackson’s running ability and suggested he start to learn to preserve himself a little bit.
Jackson played in every game last season and started the Ravens last seven games of the regular season and their playoff loss to the Chargers. Jackson threw a bit last season, tossing for 1,114 yards with five touchdowns and three picks and completed 66 percent of his passes in his just his seven starts to end the 2018 regular season.
Vick, on the other hand, didn’t play all that much his rookie season with only two spread out starts, so a better comparison would come in his second season in the league. In the first seven games of 2002, Vick’s passing numbers were similar: 1,095 yards with four touchdowns and a pick, completing 63 percent of his passes
The difference is in Vick’s rushing. He only ran 48 times for 362 yards with four scores in those seven games. Jackson’s first seven starts saw him run 119 times for 556 yards, also with four touchdowns.
Vick finished his 16-game, 2002 campaign with 113 carries for 777 yards and eight touchdowns, six carries less than Jackson’s to end the 2018 season. Vick did, however, record 100 or more rushing attempts four more times in his career after his 2002 breakout season. Vick’s advice isn’t necessarily telling Jackson to stop running, but to improve his passing game and run when needed, instead of looking to run first, which he seemed to do in most of his rookie campaign.
Jackson doesn’t have the arm strength that Vick has, but he was a solid passer in his college days at Louisville. He tossed for over 3,500 yards in both his sophomore and junior seasons each, throwing a combined 57 touchdowns with just 19 picks through those two years as well. At the same time, he also ran for 3,172 yards with 39 scores on the ground. At moments last year when he threw, he was effective but showed he needs to improve when it came to passing in the NFL.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that the Ravens are going to run a “revolutionary offense” with Jackson in 2019 and that people should expect him to run even more often than he did last year. The Ravens offense will likely look similar to what the Niners were with Colin Kaepernick to open the decade. Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman was Kaepernick’s offensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2011-13 and created an offense that helped guide the Niners to three straight NFC title games and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII against Baltimore.
Kaepernick thrived under Roman in two years, tossing for a combined 5,011 yards with 31 touchdowns through the air. He also tore it up on the ground, rushing a total of 155 times for 939 yards with nine touchdowns.
The risk with Jackson running north of potentially 150 times is, of course, injury. The most notable name amongst mobile quarterbacks is current Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose knee injury in his rookie year with the Redskins completely changed the direction of his career. As most mobile quarterbacks get older, they slow down and develop more as a passer. It happened with Vick, along with another notable runner like Randall Cunningham, who was more of a pocket passer in his latter days with the Vikings than he was with the Eagles early on.
Jackson has the work ethic and the arm strength to become a solid passer in the NFL and should improve his passing numbers in 2019. As far as running, well, Vick and anyone else can only suggest so much. But if Jackson finds a perfect way to mesh or balance the two together, Baltimore could have something really special behind center.