Tuesday - Jan 22, 2019

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FLAVOR OF THE WEEK: Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards

Why both? Because they’re a combo platter. As one goes so does the other. You can’t have one without the other. The list of cliches goes on, but ultimately there’s really only one question – is this sustainable?

A 212 pound quarterback getting 27 carries is not sustainable, so let’s get that out of the way. Part of that was by design, some by circumstance, and the rest was improvised; the takeaway is that Lamar Jackson will not be getting that type of workload again (nor should he). The overall game plan the Ravens executed? This is not like the Miami Dolphins wildcat game of 2008; there is at least some sustainability in what the Ravens did Week 11 against the Bengals. They need to build from it, but it can serve as a starting point.

Seventy-five plays and just 26 called passes (I counted five Lamar Jackson scrambles) is certainly unusual in today’s game, but with this personnel it’s a viable template for at least the rest of this season. This offense was stuck in neutral after an encouraging start to the season, relying on John Brown‘s big play ability to light up the scoreboard. Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead are worthwhile role players, but they cannot stretch the defense and are not major scoring threats. Perhaps too much was asked of Alex Collins, but he did not build upon 2017’s breakout. He’s fallen into the end zone eight times, but a 3.6 average per carry with no games netting over 70 yards has contributed to the stalling of this offense before their Week 10 bye.

Enter, Gus Edwards. He’s not a unique talent; he doesn’t really possess any unique traits and when combined with his uninspiring college production (best season – 713 yards, 6 touchdowns) it’s easy to see why he went undrafted. So why did he earn 17 carries last weekend? How did he turn that into 115 yards? And why are you considering adding him? Quite simply, he’s a great fit with Lamar Jackson. Opposing defenses aren’t concerned with Edwards breaking loose on them; they’re concerned with Jackson. At 238 pounds the north-south running Edwards bulldozer took advantage of a Bengals defense playing on their heels all game long, as they were more concerned with where the quarterback may take off to. There’s very little wiggle in his game, but there’s just enough to shake off arm tackles as he showed with his 5.4 yards after contact and eight broken tackles. Add in his fresh legs and he’s going to present problems for opposing defenses the rest of 2018 so long as the Ravens stick with Jackson. A running back with this sort of style won’t work with a statue like Joe Flacco under center, but with Jackson it’s exactly what the Ravens need…given their current personnel anyway.

That said, will the Ravens stick with Jackson as their quarterback? For Week 12 it sounds like they will. Whenever a head coach says “it will be tough” for his incumbent quarterback to be ready a full week prior that’s a sign in big, bold letters saying he’s not playing. Will that continue beyond this week’s game? Well, it largely depends on how the game actually goes. As you’ve probably heard at minimum a couple dozen times by now, Jackson’s rushing workload isn’t sustainable; he’ll have to throw more and at 7.9 yards per attempt there’s certainly something statistical to latch onto. He spread the ball around to six different pass catchers, so defenses can’t just pin their ears back and go get the quarterback or key in on any one guy in the passing game. Will he be successful being asked to throw more? Well, there’s a reason players like him and Edwards are still widely available Week 12; there’s risk here just like there is with anyone else currently available. Based on their play and production when compared to everything prior to them I like their chances.

About Mark Chamberlin

A big heart with a little snark. If you've got thick skin then I think we will get along just fine. If not though...