Cleveland Browns to face NFL’s best running quarterback
The Cleveland Browns are about to face the best running quarterback currently in the NFL when they take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4 of the 2019 season
The Cleveland Browns face the hated Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, a game in which two members of the much-ballyhooed quarterback class of 2018, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, square off for the second time as starters. Last year Jackson threw for only 179 yards versus 376 for Mayfield, but Jackson added another 90 yards on the ground and did not throw an interception, while Mayfield was picked thee times.
It was a very close game, but the Ravens prevailed 26-24. Mayfield also started in the first game between the Browns and Ravens in 2018, won by the Browns 12-9. Joe Flacco was the starter for Baltimore in that one, though Jackson took a few snaps in special situations.
The Dawg Pound very much appreciates the wisdom of general manager John Dorsey, who selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in 2018. Five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. The last raised some eyebrows as retiring Ozzie Newsome, in his last draft as Ravens general manager, pulled the trigger on some Louisville lightning.
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Mayfield was a great pick and despite some problems with the Browns’ offense, he is going to excel. Last year everyone raved about his quick release and his ability to process information and make decisions in less than three seconds.
That hasn’t changed, and the Browns will figure out how to make it work very soon, possibly this Sunday. Mayfield is a premier quarterback, even though the offense has played poorly in the early going and most observers still believe that.
Lamar Jackson’s career has been more controversial, as he had more than his share of doubters. Most everyone hates running quarterbacks in the NFL, this analyst included. However, if the quarterback in question is one of the best in history, it might not be such a bad idea to start him.
Is it an exaggeration to say that Jackson is one of the best running quarterbacks in history?
The career NFL leader in quarterback rushing yards is Michael Vick, with 6,109 yards. Vick, like Mayfield, was selected first overall in the NFL draft. But if you look at what they did in college, there is no question that Jackson was the more accomplished quarterback.
Vick only played two seasons in college and had 1,299 rushing yards for his career. Vick had more than that in a single season, and he did it twice. Jackson is listed at 6-2, 212 lbs, whereas Vick was 6-0 and 216 lbs. Moreover, Jackson is tremendously strong and is tough to bring down.
One example came against the Chiefs this season when defensive end Frank Clark got his arms around Jackson and tried to bring him down. Jackson did not go down and instead carried Clark for a piggyback ride until he collided with his own lineman. It made the highlights shows because it looked hilarious, but what other quarterback has a 260 lb defensive end on his back and does not go down? That is crazy.
He is up there with the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the reigning dean of the running quarterbacks. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Lamar Jackson exceed Wilson’s career-best 849 yards which he established in 2014. Meanwhile, Wilson is spending more of his time in the pocket these days, as evidenced by only 376 yards rushing in 2018. Vick’s career mark is probably safe from Wilson.
The Ravens took 1,189 offensive snaps last season, and Jackson was on the field 49.2 percent of the time, meaning that a full season might have doubled his output. That would have translated to sub-par passing yards (about 2,400), but 1,400 yards rushing. The Ravens transformed themselves to a premier running team with Jackson, not Air Jackson.
There are 296 reasons why the Browns should respect the Ravens offense. That’s the number of rushing yards given up by the Browns defense the last time the two teams played. Jackson cannot be judged as a pocket passer because he simply is not a pocket passer.
He uses read options and play action. If the defense overcommits to stopping the running back, Jackson has the option of taking off and running. It forces the other team to play an extra man in the box. Jackson will face more eight-man fronts than any other quarterback in the league because the defenses can not survive if they do not account for his running ability.
This season, the Ravens have 650 yards on the ground, versus only 181 for their opponents, a staggering differential. Hello! The Ravens are coming on the ground. It’s not going to be an aerial circus with Jackson at quarterback.
On the other hand, the Browns have geared up to stop Jackson. In the off-season, John Dorsey obtained the services of Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon to do something about those 296 rushing yards that the Browns gave up versus the Ravens last year. The Browns and Steve Wilks also surrendered the services of Jamie Collins in favor of adding an additional safety. That is exactly what you need to have in order to keep up with Jackson.
Mayfield, on the other hand, does his damage almost exclusively through the air. He was red hot in the second half of last year. Still, last year the Browns won their first encounter with Baltimore thanks to knuckleball reliever Greg Joseph, whose wobbly field goal sank the Ravens in overtime, 12-9. That first game seemed to be a defensive struggle, but Mayfield actually threw for 342 yards versus the Birds.
He also got sacked five times, and we might see that again, based on the struggles of the offensive line.
In the two games versus Baltimore in 2018, Mayfield threw for an incredible 718 yards. Hence Baltimore is equally concerned about stopping Mayfield as the Browns are concerned about Jackson.
The fact of the matter is that there has never been a Browns quarterback who can throw a football like Baker Mayfield. But he still has to get the right game plan from the coaching staff, and he needs help from his teammates.
At the end of the day, this analyst would rather have Baker Mayfield on the team rather than Lamar Jackson. However, both players have a chance to attend Pro Bowls and bring home championship hardware at the end of the seasons.
It should be an awesome rivalry for many years to come.