It’s easy to overreact to the first games of the NFL season. It’s also fun, which is why I spent most of Sunday stitching together a museum-quality vintage conductor’s uniform to help with my new duties leading the Lamar Jackson hype train. The Ravens quarterback threw for 324 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in Baltimore’s 59-10 opening-week destruction of the Miami Dolphins. I even knitted a little conductor’s cap—that’s how good Jackson was.
Granted, the Dolphins are bad. Horrible, to be precise, and almost everyone involved with that organization besides the head coach actively wants them to lose in order to improve their draft prospects. But this is the first week of the season and we shouldn’t bore ourselves with minor details about a team that looks poised to go 0-16. Let’s instead focus on Jackson, who was a joy to watch from the opening minutes. He threw two long touchdowns to rookie receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in the first quarter, including this 83-yard rainbow.
That wasn’t even his prettiest toss of the day, an honor that goes to touchdown pass No. 4. Officially listed as a 5-yard completion, Jackson was actually at the 21-yard line when he placed an impossible-looking back-foot heave into the hands of Miles Boykin. Who cares if it was against the Dolphins? The play would have been impressive against literal Dolphins (who don’t have hands and can’t play football on dry land).
Perhaps Jackson’s most notable stat was that he only ran the ball 3 times. Last season he had 147 rushing attempts, which was the most for a quarterback since the league merger. (And he only started 7 regular season games!) Extrapolation enthusiasts would look at those numbers and assume Jackson would spend 2019 burrowing beneath the turf, but on Sunday all his production came through the air. He matched his 2018 regular season total for touchdown passes (5) in just three quarters.
Before coming into the league last season, some NFL thought leaders believed Jackson wasn’t cut out for the quarterback gig. Former Colts general manager Bill Polian said he should be a wide receiver because “the accuracy isn’t there.” It was silly at the time (Jackson had won a Heisman trophy as a quarterback at Louisville), but it looks especially stupid now. On Sunday, the Ravens quarterback completed 17 of his 20 pass attempts. The accuracy is there, it seems.
Jackson summed it up best himself after the game.
There’s plenty of room on the hype train. Though, for the sake of metaphor appropriateness, that’s probably too grounded for this new and improved Lamar Jackson. Do hype planes exist? I better start stitching up a new uniform.
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