Lamar Jackson Moves to 2-0 as Starting QB as Ravens Beat Derek Carr, Raiders

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2018

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson is 2-0 as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback.  

On Sunday, the rookie led the Ravens to a convincing 34-17 win over the Oakland Raiders, finishing 14-of-25 for 178 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions through the air while also rushing 11 times for 71 yards and another score.

He combined with breakout running back Gus Edwards (23 rushes for 118 yards) to lead Baltimore's offense.

Derek Carr had a rough afternoon for the Raiders, meanwhile, finishing 16-of-34 for 194 yards and a touchdown. He also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that was returned 43 yards by Terrell Suggs for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.

Baltimore controlled the line of scrimmage, out-rushing Oakland 242-67. In the process, the Ravens also controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 34:12.

With the win, the Ravens moved to 6-5 on the season, remaining firmly in the wild-card conversation. Oakland fell to 2-9, meanwhile.

             

Lamar Jackson Deserves to Remain Ravens Starter

It wasn't always pretty for Jackson on Sunday. Certainly, his two interceptions weren't ideal. But Baltimore's offense is simply better with Jackson under center than it was with Joe Flacco.

Yes, Jackson's ability to make plays on the ground is huge. He once again was a factor on the ground Sunday, though the Ravens wisely didn't have him run 26 times like they did against the Cincinnati Bengals in his first start. 

But it's the threat of Jackson scrambling that has helped to open up the team's offense. It opens running lanes for the team's running backs, given the threat of Jackson pulling the ball and running himself. It opens windows in the passing game since defenders have to account for his ability to scramble. In the red zone, it gives the team another dimension. 

And it isn't as though Jackson can't throw the ball. He made some pretty throws over the top on Sunday, keeping Oakland's defense honest.

"I thought he threw the ball well," head coach John Harbaugh said after the win, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. "I hope that talk goes away."

If Flacco was playing elite football before his injury, maybe this conversation would be different. But this season, Flacco has thrown for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing just 61.2 percent of his passes. Outside of the passing yards, those are mediocre numbers.

With Jackson under center, though, the Ravens are forced to place a greater emphasis on their running game, and it's working. Against the Bengals, the Ravens ran 53 times for 267 yards, holding a whopping 38:09 in time of possession. Against the Raiders, the Ravens didn't run the ball quite as much, but it was still the focal point of their offensive attack and, yet again, it worked. 

To put that in perspective, in Baltimore's three-game losing streak before its bye—and before Jackson replaced the injured Flacco as the starter—Baltimore ran the ball 57 times total. Jackson has altered Baltimore's offensive philosophy, and that in turn has potentially saved the team's season.

The Ravens were floundering under Flacco. They aren't under Jackson. The Ravens need to stick with Jackson at quarterback even if Flacco returns healthy. 

            

Jon Gruden Should Absolutely Be on Hot Seat

It doesn't matter if the Raiders gave Jon Gruden a 10-year contract. It doesn't matter that the team is rebuilding. It doesn't matter that Gruden is in just his first year. 

Gruden should be on the hot seat. He should be coaching for his life down the stretch this season. The Raiders are just that bad. 

Sure, the Raiders have three first-round picks heading their way in this year's NFL draft. But they had to give up Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper to get them—two of their best weapons and players who are currently thriving in Chicago and Dallas, respectively

And draft picks don't just magically become competent players. Gruden and the team's front office have to get those picks right. Owner Mark Davis better have complete faith that Gruden will do just that. 

How will Gruden handle the quarterback position, where Carr is floundering? How will he handle free agency? There are far more questions in Oakland than answers. 

If the plan all along was to completely tank this season, then Gruden is safe and deserves the chance to get his own players into his system. Even if that wasn't the plan, Davis probably won't want the pie on his face of firing Gruden one season into his 10-year contract. 

But the Raiders are bad, and they aren't showing many signs of improving. That's what Gruden needs to show, that even in a lost season the team still shows up each week and fights. More importantly, Gruden needs to prove that the game hasn't passed him by. 

There remain little clues that perhaps it has. 

Any competent franchise would make sure a coach having the season Gruden is having was closely scrutinized. Any competent franchise would determine that Gruden's performance warranted a scalding hot seat. Gruden may not get fired after this season, but the Raiders should at least be seriously evaluating whether they've made the correct choice.

                                                               

What's Next?

The Ravens will face the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, while the Raiders will take on the Kansas City Chiefs the same day at 4:05 p.m. ET.

           

This article will be updated to provide more information soon.

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