In the minutes after his team lost to the Baltimore Ravens and rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was making his first career start, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis threw a little shade.
It came across as petty as you’d think.
‘Quarterbacks don’t run forever’
After watching his defense allow Jackson to gain 117 rushing yards on 24 true carries (Jackson also had three kneeldowns to end the game), which were the most carries for a quarterback since 1960 and the most rushing yards for a quarterback in nearly four years (Colin Kaepernick had 151 rushing yards on seven carries in a December 2014 game), Lewis said this:
“Quarterbacks don’t run forever in the NFL. Sooner or later, they get hurt, and they don’t run the same. But today he could run, and he did a good job.”
And sooner or later Lewis will lead the Bengals out of the first round of the playoffs.
Lest we forget, last week Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and took over the defense himself.
Sour grapes from Lewis
Look, there is some truth to what Lewis said: it isn’t easy for run-first quarterbacks, particularly those not inclined to slide to protect themselves. But in recent years, it’s not at all unheard of to see successful quarterbacks in the NFL who can run the ball.
Carolina’s Cam Newton, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, Dallas’ Dak Prescott, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota — all have over 225 yards rushing so far this season, and all have their teams in position to make the playoffs.
According to the NFL gamebook, Jackson was sacked twice and hit four times by Cincinnati defenders; Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton, who isn’t known as a running quarterback, was sacked once and hit five times by Baltimore defenders. Seems like a wash.
‘If it takes that many, Lamar will do it’
Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn’t foresee Jackson running the ball as much as he did Sunday going forward.
“I think that’s what Lamar felt that it took today,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t believe it’s going to take that many carries every week. It’s not what we’re going to be shooting for, by any stretch. But, if it takes that many, Lamar will do it. But, no, he took some hits. I think they knew the quarterback was going to run the ball. They were going after him a little bit, as you would expect. That’s something that we have to look at going forward.”
In replacing the injured Joe Flacco (hip), Jackson threw the ball 19 times and completed 13 passes. Flacco isn’t expected to play Sunday, so Baltimore might not have to make a decision at quarterback for two weeks.
If the Ravens stick with Jackson, his running style will cause matchup problems. All six of Baltimore’s remaining opponents rank in the bottom half of the NFL in run defense: Oakland (No. 31), Atlanta (No. 21), Kansas City (No. 22), Tampa Bay (No. 19), Los Angeles Chargers (No. 18) and Cleveland (No. 28).
Jackson, the No. 32 overall pick in the 2018 draft, was known for his running ability at Louisville. He ran for 4,132 yards in three seasons, averaging 17.2 rushing attempts per game. According to Pro Football Focus, 73 percent of Jackson’s rushing yards came off designed runs.
“I think that’s who Lamar is when you drafted him,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “Why all of a sudden do you want to change what he does best? Look at what he did today. It was crazy, pretty amazing. He’s only going to get better throwing the ball. The element that he can run is what makes him Lamar Jackson. I hope something never happens, but that’s just the way it is. You have to play to his strengths, especially right now when he’s playing. I don’t worry about that. If you worry about that, then you shouldn’t have drafted him.”
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