Marvin Lewis on Lamar Jackson: QBs 'Don't Run Forever in the NFL'November 19, 2018
Rookie Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the first start of his NFL career, rushing 27 times for 117 yards. But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis doesn't believe that sort of workload on the ground will be sustainable.
"Quarterbacks don't run forever in the NFL," he said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. "Sooner or later, they get hurt, and they don't run the same. But, today, he could run, and he did a good job."
Jackson was hardly poor through the air, completing 13-of-19 passes for 150 yards and an interception. But he clearly made his biggest impact—and created the most issues for the Bengals—with his legs.
That doesn't mean the Ravens will ask Jackson to run the ball with such regularity in the future, however, as head coach John Harbaugh said after the game:
"I think that's what Lamar felt that it took today. 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."
Ravens safety Eric Weddle, on the other hand, had more of an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy after Jackson's performance:
"I think that's who Lamar is when you drafted him. 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."
While Jackson's athleticism and ability to make plays on the ground is what sets him apart from other quarterbacks, Sunday's usage isn't sustainable. Most running backs in the modern NFL don't see 27 carries per game, let alone quarterbacks. Cam Newton, one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL, has carried the ball 7.6 times per game in his career.
Michael Vick, arguably the greatest scrambling quarterback in NFL history and the only one to ever rush for over 1,000 yards in a season, carried the ball 6.1 times per game. In his legendary 2006 season, when he rushed for 1,039 yards, he only rushed the ball 7.6 times per game.
In fact, Jackson's 27 carries were the most by a quarterback since 1950, when Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Joe Geri rushed 29 times for 85 yards, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
As Jonas Schaffer of the Baltimore Sun added, Jackson has recorded the second-most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback in the modern era behind teammate Robert Griffin III, who ran for 138 yards with Washington in 2012.
Suffice to say, Sunday's performance was a unique one. It seems unlikely he'll be expected to carry such a heavy workload on the ground while he remains the starter with Joe Flacco is sidelined to injury. If the Ravens keep winning with Jackson at the helm, however, he may not be asked to relinquish the starting role, even if he is asked to relinquish a few carries.