Lamar Jackson is one of the most polarizing players, let alone quarterbacks, in the NFL. With every game comes a slew of highlights and low-lights from Jackson. Whether it’s a fancy 20-yard touchdown run or a wobbly ball into the waiting arms of a defender, Jackson is one of the most heavily scrutinized players in the social media era. Similarly, he has many supporters. The true Jackson lies somewhere in between these two camps of praise and denial.
Let’s discuss three myths surrounding Lamar Jackson’s play in the NFL so far.
Myth 1: All He Does is Scramble
This tends to be more of an anecdotal piece of information rather than a mathematical one. When Jackson has several strong rushing highlights on a week-to-week basis, one can assume that he is scrambling. However, most of Jackson’s rushing attempts are designed attempts, not scrambles. This throws a wrench into the Michael Vick versus Jackson discussion of who is the best scrambler because most of Vick’s yardage came from scrambling while most of Jackson’s yardage has come from designed runs.
Calling Jackson a pure scrambler is a slight exaggeration. Again, most of his production on the ground comes from designed plays rather than Jackson improvising. In 2019, Jackson was fifth in the NFL in the number of scrambles. In 2020, Jackson finished third. If Jackson is considered a scrambler, you may want to consider Gardner Minshew and Ryan Fitzpatrick as premier scramblers in the NFL as they have posted similar scramble numbers to Jackson over the last two seasons.
Jackson did lead the NFL in scramble yardage in 2019, but this was more due to efficiency rather than volume as he was galloping for 10.5 yards per scramble.
Even at Louisville, most of Jackson’s rushing production came on designed players rather than scramble plays. Jackson does not scramble at a rate too ridiculous for NFL standards, but his utilization in the Baltimore rushing attack as a traditional rusher makes it different.
Myth Verification: False
Myth 2 & Myth 3: Jackson Cannot Throw Deep or Outside the Numbers
These myths combine to form the general misconception of Jackson rarely taking deep shots or shots outside the numbers.
There is some basis in the misconceptions as Jackson has a higher percentage of throws over the middle of the field than he does to the outside. Take his deep passes in 2020 for instance. 6.6% of all of Jackson’s throws were to the deep center. 2.8% of his attempts went to the deep left. 4.2% went to the deep right. There are a variety of factors for this including the route running of Baltimore’s outside receivers as well as the safety blanket known as Mark Andrews. With Jackson’s total number of pass attempts deflated due to the run-heavy nature of the Ravens offense, Jackson often looked for the first down or chain-mover parts of the passing game including short passes to Andrews.
Perhaps the wildest comparison one can make is comparing Jackson deep passing to the other two quarterbacks to have won MVP since Jackson was drafted in 2018: Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Both Mahomes and Rodgers have a reputation for being terrific deep-ball passers. They are perceived as though they attempt millions of deep passes and never throw short of the sticks. In actuality, Jackson had a higher deep percentage than Patrick Mahomes and had higher percentages beyond 10 yards than both quarterbacks in 2020.
While Rodgers and Mahomes have a larger volume of deep passes because they threw the ball more, on a per-pass basis, Jackson is more likely to throw the deep ball than Rodgers or Mahomes. Rodgers and Mahomes are more efficient on these throws than Jackson is, but there are a variety of factors that can explain Mahomes having a 90 PFF grade on deep passes while Jackson settled around an 85.
Rodgers played at a different stratosphere in 2020, posting a nearly perfect 99.3 grade on deep passes. Jackson has shown the ability to take and make some of these deep shots, and developing chemistry with Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman should only refine Jackson’s deep ball.
If Brown and Bateman continue to cultivate their chemistry with Jackson, expect offensive coordinator Greg Roman to mix in a handful of extra deep passes as Jackon becomes more confidence in delivering the ball down the field.
Myth Verification: False
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