Jackson vs. Chiefs, he can’t play like an NFL MVP and is rather limited to being a ‘normal’ version of Lamar
OWINGS MILLS, Maryland – If the Baltimore Ravens want to avoid their worst start in six years, quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to find a solution to a problem that has stumped him during his first three NFL seasons: How to beat Kansas City Chiefs?
Jackson is 30-8 in the regular season, and nearly half of those losses have come against the Chiefs., who will try to improve to 4-0 against Jackson on Sunday night.
Last season Jackson was limited to 97 yards passing, the worst mark of his career, in a 34-20 loss to the Chiefs. After the game, Jackson described Kansas City as “our kryptonite.”
“I said that because they beat us three times, so it’s like, ‘Man, we have to find a way to win,'” Jackson agreed this week. “And I hope Sunday night is different.”
In three games against Kansas City, Jackson completed 52.6% of his passes, averaged 170.3 yards and posted a passer rating of 78.8. In 35 games against the rest of the league, he completed 64% of his passes, averaged 190.3 yards and posted a 104.9 rating.
How have the Chiefs been able to turn Jackson from an NFL MVP to a ‘normal’? ESPN Data broke down three problem areas for Jackson:
The Kansas City heat: More than any other team, the Chiefs are behind Jackson, bombing him 35% of the time. All other defenses sent five or more wingers to Jackson 27% of the time.
Last year, Kansas City pressured Jackson using the blitz 49%, the highest rate of the season. Jackson generally makes teams think twice before chasing after him, whether that’s coming out of his pocket to run or buying enough time to throw for a score. But he has had no answers to the pressure from the Chiefs, completing 44% of his passes for 4.8 yards per attempt against the blitz.
“They can be aggressive, because I think they understand how the equation works for them as a team,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “So in that sense, they are going to be very aggressive. They will try to create the illusion of chaos. You have to organize that, have it organized in your mind offensively and be ready to attack that.”
Little success on long casts: Jackson has done exactly what he’s supposed to do against an aggressive defense. He has targeted vertical routes in 25% of his attempts against Kansas City.
Where Jackson has fallen short is in execution. He has been terrible on his deep pitches against the Chiefs, completing 3 of 24 vertical routes (12.5%).
“It’s a game of cat and mouse, and [los Chiefs] They do a great job mixing up what they’re doing, “Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of deep shots against the blitz.” But it’s very simple: If they’re all in the back, hit them here. If they’re all here, hit them there. So if they’re going to do that, you have to make them pay or they’ll keep doing it. “
Without security blanket: Jackson generally looks for his tight ends in the middle of the field. Since entering the NFL in 2018, he ranks third in QBR (92.0) in passes to tight ends and completes 69% of his shots to them. But against Kansas City, Jackson’s tight end numbers are plummeting: 62 QBR and 48% rate.
Tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson’s favorite target, hasn’t been a factor against the Chiefs. In three games against Kansas City, Andrews has never had more than three receptions or 22 yards.
“We’re going to give Mark that ball,” Jackson said. “We have to give Mark that ball. He’s a dynamic player; he makes my job so much easier.” “Probably not with three on top, I’ll probably go with another receiver, but we’ll try, because that’s my goal.”
The Ravens are trying to avoid falling to 0-2 for the first time since 2015, and the odds are even more against Jackson due to injuries. He is already without his two best running backs: JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards are out of season with knee injuries. He could also be without Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who has not practiced this week due to an ankle injury.
Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who played the previous three seasons at KC, was asked if he could offer any suggestions to Jackson and the Ravens.
“Honestly, we have to go out there and fight and fight some guys who are unbelievably good,” Watkins said. “That is going to be the test.”