Lamar Jackson's record-setting run that gave him the single season rushing record for a quarterback represented what is both great and also scary with how he plays the game. While the run showcased Jackson's elite speed and agility, it also included a big hit on Jackson that was a reminder of the hits Jackson exposes himself to anytime he leaves the pocket.
Despite the physical toll that comes with his playing style, Jackson, the reigning league MVP who ran the ball 323 times during his first two seasons, has yet to miss a game due to injury. And while Jackson has not sustained a serious injury yet, Bert Jones, Baltimore's last quarterback to win league MVP honors before 2019, wants Jackson to be more thoughtful about the hits he is taking.
"I'm thoroughly impressed (watching Jackson)," Jones recently said of Jackson, via Mike Klingaman of The Baltimore Sun. "He carried (the Ravens) on his shoulders. If anyone is deserving of (the award), it's Lamar. He's a lot better player than me and I wish him well, though I'd encourage him to be more cautious; I worry about him getting hit all the time."
While Jackson has publicly stated on numerous occasions that he isn't worried about the hits he has taken, the Ravens have made a concerted effort to try to help Jackson with regard to cutting down on the hits. Before Jackson's rookie season, backup Robert Griffin III, another mobile quarterback who saw his career shift gears after sustaining a major knee injury at the end of his rookie season, talked about working with Jackson in an effort to minimize the hits he endures.
"What I try to tell him mostly is that in this league things happen faster," Griffin said, via ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "It's not that he can't run -- he just has to be smart when he does run. He's going to have to learn some things on his own as he's out there and he's working. I think he'll figure it out pretty quickly, and he'll still be the dynamic player that he is."
Jackson's continued growth as a passer may also help limit the amount of hits he endures outside of the pocket as his career continues. Last season, despite starting in eight more games, he carried the ball just 29 more times than he did during his rookie season, when Jackson, who completed just 58.2% of his throws in 2018, needed to rely on his running ability more. Last season, he saw significant growth as a passer, as he led the NFL with 36 touchdowns while completing 66.1% of his throws. While running the ball was obviously still a major part of his game (he set the single season quarterback rushing record, after all), Jackson was less reliant on that part of his game, an encouraging sign for the Ravens and their fans as he goes into his second NFL offseason.
While he hopes to watch Jackson for many years to come, Jones is also hoping that the reigning MVP avoids his fate as an MVP quarterback who was unable to parlay regular season glory into postseason success. Despite leading the Colts to three straight division titles from 1975-77, Jones and his teammates were bounced in their first playoff game each season, losing to Chuck Noll's defending Super Bowl champion Steelers twice before falling at home to John Madden's Raiders, who were also the defending champion. While each of the playoff losses hurt, the second loss to the Steelers, which took place following Jones' 1976 MVP season, hurt the most, as the Colts fell at home to the underdog Steelers, 40-14.
That loss is similar to the one the Ravens endured this past January. After winning 14 regular season games, Jackson and the Ravens couldn't keep pace with Derrick Henry and the Titans, who pulled off a 28-12 upset victory on their way to the AFC Championship Game. The loss dropped Jackson's playoff record to 0-2. Jones is hoping Jackson doesn't join him with a career playoff record of 0-3.
"In a heartbeat," Jones said when asked if he would trade his MVP trophy for a Lombardi Trophy. Jackson, the unanimous winner of this year's MVP award, feels the exact same way.
"I hate losing," Jackson said shortly after accepting the MVP trophy earlier this month, via The Sun's Childs Walker. "I really do, so I don't know. But like I said, we've got to move on. We've got to get better for next year."