EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lamar Jackson had just lost his backup left tackle with roughly four minutes left to play in the first half on Sunday against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Needing to make a splash play to cap what had been an otherwise sluggish first half for the Baltimore Ravens offense, Jackson relied on his arm — instead of his well-publicized mobility — to push his squad comfortably ahead of the home team before halftime.
Set up with a 3rd-and-5 situation at the Jets’ 25-yard line with 3:51 to play in the first half, Jackson arched a perfect rainbow of a pass to wideout Devin Duvernay. The accuracy of the toss allowed the 5-foot-11, 202-pound receiver to leap over Jets cornerback Bryce Hall for a contested catch in the end zone. The score — followed by a successful extra point by kicker Justin Tucker — gave the Ravens a 10-3 halftime lead in an eventual 24-9 win over the Jets.
Lamar Jackson relies on his arm to show Ravens his worth
Jackson — who got off to a rough start as he was bullied by the Jets’ new-and-improved defensive front — battled his way through the muck with the help of some big breaks and big throws. The former MVP wasn’t given much room to run against the Jets and instead decided to light up the sky in the wake of his tabled contract extension talks with the Ravens.
“Lamar played outstanding,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “He played a patient, veteran quarterback game. He was in control of everything, he did a great job with the line, he handled the clock really well. There were some lengthy play calls in there that we dealt with, and he handled all of that really well.
“He got the guys in the right spots, and then he was poised in the pocket, held the ball, protected the ball, found guys open, moved when he had to, made a couple plays with his legs when he had to, here and there. He played a really veteran, winning quarterback type of a game. He still makes his plays, obviously, two huge touchdown passes that we saw. I’m proud of him.”
While the Jets did a phenomenal job keeping Jackson and the Ravens’ running game in check throughout the contest, the secondary finally let up in the second quarter and allowed Jackson to take advantage of the unit with his arm. He hit Duvernay for another touchdown connection on a second well-placed jump ball and then came back with a 55-yard bomb of a touchdown strike to Rashod Bateman after the wideout got lost down the field in zone coverage.
“Lamar can throw the ball,” Bateman said in the locker room. “He did it in college, he’s been doing it in the NFL. I think people should start to respect it more. But you know, he going to keep showing people what he’s doing.”
Jackson completed 17 of 30 passes for 213 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. The lone turnover — a late pick by Jets cornerback D.J. Reed — was produced with the Ravens up by 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great passer, and you never take that away from him,” Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers told Pro Football Network. “You say — going into it — that you’re playing the ‘wildcat’ game with a guy that can throw the ball 50 yards. And that’s what he did, and props to him.”
Jackson’s strong passing performance — which took place amongst scattered showers in the Meadowlands — came just hours after ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Jackson turned down a six-year contract extension offer from the Ravens. According to Mortensen, the offer included $133 million in fully guaranteed money, which was more than the guaranteed money given to Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson and Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray in recent deals.
While ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Jackson was offered more than $250 million — well over the $230 million given to Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson in March — just over half of the deal was fully guaranteed. Watson’s contract was fully guaranteed at signing by the Browns. Jackson reportedly wants a fully guaranteed contract, and the Ravens refused to agree on an extension ahead of the Friday deadline imposed by both parties.
In response to those closed contract talks, Jackson — who needed to will the Ravens’ offense through an early minefield of inefficiency — delivered an impressive passing performance.
“He’s focused on winning, he’s focused on the team,” Bateman said. “We never talk about [the contract discussions], it doesn’t come up for us. We all know it’s there, but we also know we need to play football and that’s what we focus on.”
Jackson wasn’t perfect, but he doesn’t need to be to prove he’s more valuable than Watson, Murray, and Wilson. He just needs to continue to stay healthy and efficient as a passer.
With few running lanes to blast through, Jackson showed his doubters that he is more than happy to put on a firework show with impressive downfield heaves. He did just that against a formidable Jets defense on the road in Week 1.
“It’s very positive, it boosts our confidence,” Jackson said. “We trust in each other. We just need to keep going. This is the first game, we have 16 more to go, and you know, playoffs and stuff like that.”
J.K. Dobbins, Denzel Mims among inactive players for Ravens-Jets
The inactive lists for the Ravens and Jets had some notable names. The Ravens were forced to sit starting running back J.K. Dobbins, who continues to recover from last year’s ACL tear. Veteran running back Mike Davis started in Dobbins’ absence.
Along with Dobbins, left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), cornerback Marcus Peters (knee), tight end Nick Boyle (ankle), defensive tackle Travis Jones (knee), and offensive lineman Daniel Faalele were inactive. Faalele was the only true healthy scratch for the matchup.
On the Jets’ side, starting QB Zach Wilson was inactive. According to head coach Robert Saleh, the team doesn’t expect Wilson to return until Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Joining Wilson on the inactive list were defensive lineman Bryce Huff, tight end Jeremy Ruckert, offensive tackle Connor McDermott, and wide receiver Denzel Mims. McDermott (ankle) was the only injured player on the inactive list. The Jets placed OT Duane Brown (shoulder) on the injured reserve on Saturday.
Ravens backup left tackle Ja’Wuan James was carted off the field just before the two-minute warning in the first half. James was starting in place of Stanley but suffered an ankle injury with the Ravens in the red zone. He was replaced by backup offensive lineman Patrick Mekari. James did not return to the field.
Following the game, Harbaugh said James tore his Achilles. Harbaugh said the injury is to the same leg as his previous tear but that the injury is itself is different, as it’s off the bone, instead of a mid-tendon tear. James was seen in the locker room with a walking boot and crutches following the game.
Jets starting nickel cornerback Michael Carter II made a tackle for a loss on a play in the third quarter. However, after the play, Carter failed to get up from the turf and was immediately looked at by the training staff. He eventually walked off the field on his own power.
Ravens cornerback Kyle Fuller needed to be helped off the field with 1:18 left in the game. Fuller was injured when Jets wideout Elijah Moore pushed off in the end zone to collect a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco. Moore was whistled for offensive pass interference, and the score was wiped out. Fuller appeared to suffer a knee injury and didn’t return.
Harbaugh said they won’t have information on Fuller until Monday.
Ravens vs. Jets quick hits
- The Jets’ defense showed some positive signs on Sunday. Last year’s 29th-ranked run defense held the top rushing QB in the league to just 18 yards on five carries. The Ravens running backs only picked up 46 total rushing yards against the Jets.
- Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein went of 1 of 2 on 45-yard field goals and missed an extra point in the fourth quarter. Punter Braden Mann also had an up-and-down afternoon, as he shanked a 20-yard punt in the third quarter, which led to the Ravens’ second touchdown-scoring drive.
- Flacco, the Jets’ fill-in starting QB, completed 37 of 59 passes for 301 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He was sacked three times by his former team.
- Duvernay caught all four of his targets for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Duvernay seems to be the clear top wideout on the Ravens’ roster. He also serves as the team’s punt returner.
- Jets running back Michael Carter got off to a nice start to the season. He ran 10 times for 60 yards (6.0 ypc) against an otherwise stout Ravens defense. He also caught seven passes for 40 yards.
- Jets tight end Tyler Conklin, who garnered considerable hype for his offseason connection with Wilson, caught just four passes for 14 yards and a meaningless touchdown. He also had a drop and a fumble, which was recovered by first-round pick Garrett Wilson.
- Jets wide receiver Corey Davis led the team with six catches for 77 yards. Rookie Garrett Wilson collected 4 of 8 targets for 52 yards.