Spears: Jackson must excel from pocket for Ravens to win Super Bowl originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Although he led the league in touchdown passes a season ago en route to winning league MVP, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has always been the most dangerous with his legs.
In 2019, Jackson broke the single-season rushing yards record by a quarterback. Part of the reason Jackson was also so successful -- and efficient -- in the passing attack is because opponents had to focus on his ability to run every time he dropped back to pass.
Baltimore has Super Bowl or bust expectations in 2020, especially after a bad playoff performance last year continues to be a topic of conversation. ESPN's power index currently gives Baltimore a 38% chance to win the AFC, the highest in the conference.
But for that to happen, ESPN analyst Marcus Spears believes Jackson must excel throwing from the pocket, just how he did Sunday versus Cleveland.
"That percentage of them winning is because of Lamar operating like he did from the pocket [on Sunday]," Spears said Tuesday on Get Up! "I don't care what anybody says, every analytic person knows what Lamar Jackson is running the football."
On Sunday, it was Jackson's arm, not his legs, that helped lead Baltimore to a blowout 38-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Jackson completed 20 of his 25 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, rushing for just 45 yards on seven carries.
"I can guarantee you this: Greg Roman and this offensive staff, they feel great about what they saw with Lamar Jackson operating from the pocket," Spears said.
Jackson was nearly perfect on Sunday, but the Browns are an inferior foe to some of the AFC's best teams like the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Baltimore and Kansas City face off in just two weeks in what certainly could be a preview of the conference title game several months down the road.
In games against teams like Kansas City, Spears says Jackson must be able to stay in the pocket and throw the ball downfield in order to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and that powerful Chiefs offense.
"I felt good about what Lamar did. It doesn't mean he doesn't use his legs; I was never trying to make that point," Spears said. "For his evolution, for his next phase of the game and when we're talking about winning a Super Bowl, he's going to have to operate from the pocket like that, especially if they are in the playoffs."
Jackson has already taken tremendous strides as a passer in his two years in the NFL. There's no reason to think the MVP, who is just 23 years old, can't take his game to another level.