Lamar Jackson Cements His Status as NFL MVP and King of Dual-Threat QBs

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystDecember 13, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 12: <<enter caption here>>at M&T Bank Stadium on December 12, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the best at what he does, and what he does is breathtaking to watch. 

The "M-V-P" chants continually rained down upon the second-year signal-caller Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium during a 42-21 victory over the New York Jets, and deservedly so. 

The NFL has never seen a quarterback quite like Jackson. His skill set will eventually ignite an evolution at every level. But the future is already here for the NFL.

His emergence isn't some pro football version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Old-school curmudgeons no longer dominate the conversation, because many have already seen the light.

Instead, the majority of onlookers, including previous critics, are buying into the dream of a dual-threat quarterback and its impact on an offense; everyone sees the effectiveness of a similarly unpredictable skill set—no one will outright replicate what Jackson can doand how much stress it places on opposing defenses. 

Currently, the Ravens starter is the league's Most Valuable Player based on traditional metrics while adding production on the ground that's now unequaled among his peers and NFL legends. 

Too many foolishly believe the latter makes Jackson truly special when that's not the case. Yes, the quarterback's open-field speed and agility are something to behold. Yet, the majority of his damage this season has come by working from the pocket. 

With Thursday's total added to the mix, Jackson now leads the NFL with 33 touchdown passes. In fact, he became the first quarterback 22 years old or younger to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season, according to ESPN's Ed Werder

That total is a byproduct of Jackson excelling in two different areas: against pressure and in the red zone. Great quarterback play is defined by performances in specific situations. How a signal-caller responds in adverse situations and crunch time is quite telling. Also, situational football often defines overall success. 

In Jackson's case, opposing defensive coordinators better not blitz the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, or he will make them pay—and not just with his legs. Entering Thursday's contest against one of the league's most blitz-happy play-callers, Jackson shredded designed pressure, as NFL Next Gen Stats noted: 

Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats

Lamar Jackson has been excellent against the blitz this season⁠—6 more pass TD than any other QB despite fewer attempts. @Lj_era8 will face Gregg Williams' attacking Jets defense tonight, a unit that blitzes at the 7th-highest rate in the NFL (35%). #NYJvsBAL | #RavensFlock https://t.co/ZwK4UV14pQ

Most quarterbacks become frazzled when pressured. They don't like defenders draped around their legs or breathing down their necks. Jackson easily evades oncoming defenders and finds his targets downfield, because he's a pass-first quarterback despite previous incorrect narratives. He wants to throw the ball, and he's not looking to run unless it's a designed play or nothing else is available. 

His passing efficiency this season has been nothing short of phenomenal, especially in tight quarters. Throwing the ball in the red zone is difficult because coverage becomes compressed and there's less room for receivers to work. Quarterbacks must be far more precise and judicious in their reads and throws. Jackson is putting together an all-time great season from the extended red zone. 

According to NFL Network's Ben Fennell, the Ravens quarterback entered Thursday with 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions inside the 30-yard line. He added four more to that total against the Jets. 

The Ravens offense, as a whole, is nearly unstoppable with Jackson leading the way, especially early in the contest. 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Ravens scored a TD on each of their first 3 drives for the 4th time this season, the most by any team in the last 40 years. Baltimore broke a tie with several great offenses including the 2018 Chiefs, 2014 Packers, and 1999 Rams. (h/t @EliasSports) https://t.co/OM9LnVV1r5

Jackson already ranked fourth overall with a 109.2 quarterback rating before posting a healthy 134.4 against Gregg Williams' defense.

Clearly, the soon-to-be award winner is an elite passer and ranks among the league's best by traditional measures. His artistry with the ball in his hands and space in front of him makes him a transcendent talent. 

Transcendent implies someone must be surpassed. In this case, Michael Vick.

Prior to Jackson's arrival, Vick served as the template for mobile quarterbacks who could shred a defense with both their arm and feet. The former Atlanta Falcons signal-caller set an NFL record with 1,039 rushing yards by a quarterback during the 2006 campaign. Jackson broke that record with two games to go this season. 

The Checkdown @thecheckdown

Mike Vick reacted to Lamar breaking his record... (via @MichaelVick) https://t.co/PibwxknfM7

"I'm going to cherish that forever," Jackson told reporters after the game. 

Thursday's 86-yard effort now gives Jackson 1,103 yards and counting. The quarterback—yes, a quarterback—ranks fifth overall in rushing yardage heading into this weekend's slate of contests. 

To better understand how effective the Ravens signal-caller has been this season, his historic performance goes beyond raw yardage numbers. Jackson became the first quarterback ever with multiple games of five touchdown passes and 80 rushing yards, per Stats by STATS. Cam Newton is the only other quarterback to  have done it. The 22-year-old also tied Newton's career mark with his third game of four or more passing touchdowns and 50 rushing yards, per NFL Research

Any counterargument against Jackson at this point is rather simple and superfluous.

The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson has put together a great season so far, and he's often asked to take on more responsibilities than pretty much any other quarterback. But his production dipped in recent weeks, and Jackson shouldn't be deducted points just because he's excelling in a system catered to his strengths while playing with a better overall cast, since that's exactly what you want from a quarterback. The team should be building its offense around him. That applies to everyone who plays the position.

The man leading the way is expected to maximize the talent around him. The fact that Jackson is doing so isn't a slight; it's further proof of his value. His outstanding and now unparalleled play speaks for itself.  

Jackson is already a top-five passer and rusher. Hand him the MVP trophy now. He's that damn good, and there's never been anyone else quite like him.


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.