Two starts, two wins: Should Lamar Jackson remain the Ravens' quarterback?

The Baltimore Ravens won their second straight game and are back over .500 after Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders, 34-17.

It was the second straight start for rookie Lamar Jackson, who has been filling in for Joe Flacco while the veteran nurses a hip injury. But is Flacco getting Wally Pipp’d? Or to use a more recent reference, Tom Brady’d?

Jackson runs less, passes more

After becoming the first quarterback in nearly three years to rush for over 100 yards in a game in his debut last week, Jackson carried the ball less and passed more against Oakland.

He was 14-for-25 passing for 178 yards, plus 11 carries for 71 yards. His last true carry was a 39-yard scamper down the sideline on third-and-1, effectively putting the game away.

Is the future now? Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens to wins in each of his first two starts; will Baltimore keep him as starter even once Joe Flacco is healthy? (AP)
Is the future now? Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens to wins in each of his first two starts; will Baltimore keep him as starter even once Joe Flacco is healthy? (AP)

Jackson had one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and two second-quarter interceptions. Fortunately, he was playing the offensively inept Raiders, and they picked up only three points off his two turnovers.

Jackson also did well spreading the ball around, with seven teammates recording at least one catch.

The Ravens as a team gashed Oakland on the ground, totaling 252 yards. Undrafted rookie Gus Edwards had another strong showing with 118 rushing yards while averaging over five yards per attempt. He also topped 100 yards last week.

Unclear when Flacco set to return

It’s unclear when Flacco will return. He was reportedly injured in Baltimore’s Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and hasn’t returned to practice. Coach John Harbaugh said after the victory that Flacco could return to the field this week, but did not give a definitive timeline.

In the first nine games of the season, Flacco had posted a completion percentage of 61.2, which would be his lowest since 2013, with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Flacco is a quite different style of quarterback than Jackson, but has had success in his time as the Ravens’ starter. With Baltimore not out the playoff picture – now 6-5 and in second place in the AFC North, the Ravens would get the second wildcard berth if the playoffs started after this week – the team might feel more comfortable going with the battle-tested option.

Should Jackson start even when Flacco healthy?

The question will swirl for days, perhaps longer, until it’s known when Flacco is well enough to return to practice: Should the Ravens stick with their rookie or go back to Flacco?

Jackson was the 32nd pick in the first round, and the last of the 2018 rookie quarterbacks to start. As a Heisman winner at Louisville, he got the Cardinals into the end zone any way necessary, not unlike what we’ve seen in his two starts with Baltimore. While some NFL evaluators insisted Jackson should give up quarterback and be a receiver at this level (looking at you, Bill Polian), in recent years there are plenty of examples of successful quarterbacks who can both pass and run. There were two of them on the field in the same stadium on Sunday: the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton and Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.

Teammates seem to enjoy playing with Jackson. Via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, after the game Michael Crabtree was praising Jackson, while safety Eric Weddle joked with a reporter, “Why can’t you just let me enjoy this win?” when asked the Jackson or Flacco question.

There have been stories for weeks that this could be Harbaugh’s final season as Ravens’ head coach; he is signed only through this season. And this is Ozzie Newson’s last season as general manager, so it’s entirely possible that GM-in-waiting Eric DeCosta would want to start his tenure in charge with a new coach and a young quarterback.

Flacco is currently signed through 2021 with a base salary next year of $18.5 million. Baltimore could trade him, of course, but if it released Flacco with the post-June 1 designation, he would count just $8 million against the salary cap. Considering how cheap Jackson is for the next few years, it’s not a terrible financial tradeoff.

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