Lamar Jackson Impresses as Ravens Beat Redskins in Preseason Matchup

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2018

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrates after rushing for a touchdown in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Washington Redskins, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Gail Burton/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens closed out their preseason with a 30-20 victory over Washington at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday night.

Baltimore—which played in the Hall of Fame Game—finished the preseason with a 5-0 record, while Washington dropped to 1-3. As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley pointed out, it marks the Ravens' 13th consecutive exhibition victory and their third straight perfect preseason.

With the regular season just more than a week away, both teams held out their starters. That gave backups, such as Lamar Jackson, a chance to show their coaches what they can do. 

        

Lamar Jackson Solidifies Status as Baltimore's QB2

After having an up-and-down start to the summer, Jackson ended the preseason on a strong note.

The first-round pick was coming off his most impressive performance (7-of-10, 98 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions; three carries, 39 yards, one touchdowns), and he carried the momentum into Thursday night.

Jackson led his team on a 13-play scoring drive to open the game, finding the end zone on a play-action bootleg run:

That would be just the start of a second consecutive strong showing.

There's never been a question about the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner's legs—it's his arm that had some believing he may need to change positions in the NFL. Against Washington, he put his arm on display, most notably on a pass down the seam to tight end Mark Andrews for a 45-yard gain:

While it was another good night for Jackson, he did make a rookie decision by throwing a jump ball for Breshad Perriman in the end zone late in the second. Replay wiped out an interception by Washington cornerback Adonis Alexander, but it reminded everyone that the first-year quarterback still has developing to do.

Overall, Jackson went 9-of-15 for 109 yards and added 25 yards and a score on three carries in one half of action. He acknowledged, though, that he could have been better, via The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec:

Jackson has been going head-to-head with veteran Robert Griffin III for the primary backup slot. While he may still have work to do, Jackson has shown enough lately to give John Harbaugh and Co. confidence that the team would be in good hands if he's called into action.

        

Robert Griffin III's Future in Baltimore Remains Unclear

Harbaugh and the Ravens have a decision to make when it comes to the quarterback position. With Jackson's strong push, Griffin's future with the team is uncertain.

Griffin has had a solid preseason, completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He added 52 rushing yards on 11 carries.

He did not play against his former team Thursday.

Griffin gives Baltimore a veteran option as Joe Flacco's primary backup if the organization does not believe Jackson is ready. But with the rookie's impressive finish to the summer, it could make the veteran expendable. 

NFL reporter Jason La Canfora reported a number of teams may be considering Griffin for their backup quarterback. The decision to not play Griffin on Thursday allows the Ravens to keep their options open, as he was not put at risk of injury in a meaningless game.

After Teddy Bridgewater netted the New York Jets a third-round pick earlier this week, Baltimore may explore the trade market for Griffin. However, WBAL's Pete Gilbert noted Griffin's leadership and mentorship has been a positive influence.

"I'm trying to help nurture him as much as I possibly can, so that when he flies away, he is ready to fly away. Because when you watch it fly away, at that point it's up to that bird," Griffin said, per Sports Illustrated's Ben Baskin in June.

Of course, Griffin has been through quite a bit during his NFL career. He went from being the Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 2012 to dealing with a serious knee injury to losing his job to being out of the league. Griffin can use his experiences to help Jackson develop—but it's unclear what his future holds.

       

Samaje Perine Appears to Be Firmly On Roster Bubble

With Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson locks to make the roster, Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine may be battling for a spot on the squad. 

If that is the case, Kelley may hold the edge over Perine.

Not only did an ankle injury suffered during the second preseason game keep him out of the following contest, but Perine also didn't make the strongest closing statement. Although he finished the game with 30 yards on seven carries, he also fumbled near midfield midway through the second quarter.

That turnover led to a Baltimore field goal, extending the Ravens' lead to 13-7.

As a number of media members pointed out, a fumble could prove costly for the second-year back:

It's also important to remember Kelley had 704 yards on 4.2 yards per carry and six touchdowns just two years ago, proving he can be an effective runner. A fourth-round pick last year, Perine put together a solid rookie campaign, running for 603 yards and adding 182 receiving yards while scoring two touchdowns.

However, Perine ran for just 3.4 yards per carry and had two fumbles. Kelley has not fumbled once in his two years in the league.

When it comes to backup players, a coach has to be able to trust that player to be effective—and not turn the ball over—when called upon. It would be tough to give up on the 22-year-old Perine after just one year. Unfortunately for him, Perine may not have shown enough during this preseason—or Thursday—to lock down a roster spot.

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