The Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens face off in yet another battle of first-place teams. The 5-1 Lions sit comfortably atop the NFC North, 2.5 games above the Green Bay Packers, while the 4-2 Ravens are just a half-game ahead in a far more competitive AFC North.
Detroit just took down a similar Tampa Bay Buccaneers team on the road, but while the Ravens boast a similarly effective defense, they’re also quite dangerous on the offensive side of the ball. And even more interestingly, they’ve changed their identity a bit on offense. While this has notoriously been a team that has hyper-focused on running the ball, they are now more equipped to attack through the air and it shows, as Lamar Jackson is excelling.
“You see they’re trying to use Lamar to sit in the pocket and throw the ball,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week. “He has those capabilities.”
But from the outside looking in, it may be hard to see that success. Jackson’s 7.2 yards per attempt and 93.0 passer rating are both actually below his career average. The Ravens’ 22.2 points per game rank just 15th in the NFL. Yet everyone seems to be saying Jackson is having a career year, and he ranks second in PFF grade.
Where is the disconnect? How good has Jackson actually been as a pocket passer this year? And is he still dangerous with his feet?
We chatted with Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown and BaltimoreRavens.com to help clear some of this up. Part of the reason for the disconnect is that while the Ravens offense looks hot at times, there have been some serious inconsistencies under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
“The Ravens have not produced a full four quarters of sustained offensive production,” Barber told us.
“They’re one of the best offenses to begin each game. They have scored first in each of their (six) contests. The problem is they have yet to sustain that,” Barber said. “As the games go on, the offense seems to struggle more and more, and by the fourth quarter they’re one of the lowest-ranked offenses by success rate and EPA and yards per attempt.”
Barber doesn’t attribute the inconsistency to Jackson, who he insists is having an outstanding year.
“In the Steelers game, Lamar Jackson probably had his best game throwing the football that I’ve ever seen. Efficient, consistently hit his targets and not just in their area, but in stride or where he could protect (the receiver) from the opposition,” Barber said. “And the Ravens dropped seven footballs. Zay Flowers dropped two, Rashod Bateman dropped one in the endzone, Mark Andrews then dropped one in the endzone, Nelson Agholor dropped a deep route that would’ve been a 60-yard touchdown, Odell Beckham dropped one. Suddenly it became this incredibly contagious problem that overshadowed Lamar.”
Our conversation captures every matchup and ends with some predictions for Sunday. Check out our whole conversation below, or you can catch the entire interview over on our Twitch page.