BALTIMORE — Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis questioned Lamar Jackson‘s longevity after the Baltimore Ravens rookie first-round pick ran the ball more times than any other quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
“Quarterbacks don’t run forever in the NFL,” Lewis said after the 24-21 loss in Baltimore. “Sooner or later, they get hurt, and they don’t run the same. But, today, he could run, and he did a good job.”
In his first start, Jackson ran 27 times (includes three kneel downs at the end of the game) — which were five more than any other quarterback since 1960, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His 117 yards rushing were the most by a quarterback in four years.
Prolific running quarterbacks like Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick all suffered at least one significant season-ending injury in their careers. Jackson only took a couple of hard hits in Sunday’s game, but he sustained some big shots in the preseason because he chose not to slide. 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 until two weeks.
If the Ravens stick with Jackson, his running style will cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. 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 this year’s 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.”