Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson breathed new life into a struggling Baltimore Ravens' offense when he took over for Joe Flacco in Week 11, leading the team to a playoff berth.
But Jackson struggled in the postseason against the Los Angeles Chargers, a disappointing end to what had been a remarkable second half of the season. The Chargers used seven defensive backs on nearly every play to slow the Baltimore run game, forcing Jackson into more passing situations.
Former running back Danny Woodhead, who played in the NFL from 2008-2017, quickly put to rest any notion that Los Angeles had figured out the recipe to defending the new-look Ravens.
"No," Woodhead said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Jan. 10. "The Chargers are really freaking good; that needs to be recognized."
Despite Jackson's success during seven regular-season starts, Woodhead said he couldn't comment on the rookie's future prospects just yet. He hadn't spent any time with the quarterback, and he needs to see Jackson's production replicated in the future. It wasn't a stance pertaining specifically to Jackson, rather a general rule for young players.
"Once you get into next year is when you can be like, 'All right, he's really good,' or 'Maybe he's not as good as we thought,' or 'He's better than what we thought,'" Woodhead said.
The same goes for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes after this season, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott heading into the 2017 season and so on, Woodhead said. Until you can do it for two years, Woodhead isn't convinced.
"The NFL isn't college, you don't have to recruit," Woodhead said. "The coaches in the offseason, you know what they're going to do? They're going to watch film on every team they're going to play the next year."
Baltimore utilized a college-style rushing attack, getting Jackson in space with a variety of zone reads, options and keepers. Jackson averaged nearly 80 rushing yards in his seven regular-season starts and finished the year with five touchdowns on the ground.
The Ravens' unorthodox play calling and variety of formations are all the more reason to be patient in judging Jackson, Woodhead said.
"Let's be honest, it is a different offense," Woodhead said. "No other offense does it. Defenses had no clue what to do. They really had no idea."
As for next season, Woodhead didn't recommend any changes. He said the current iteration of the offense pairs nicely with the elite defense, controlling the ball and limiting opportunities for the opposition.
Woodhead likened Baltimore to the Denver Broncos in 2011 with former quarterback Tim Tebow, who led a run-based offense that had deficiencies in the passing game but the support of a great defense.
"If they keep that defense and that defense that they're doing, they don't need to change anything because they have the best defense in the league," Woodhead said. "It shortens games."
For more from Woodhead, listen to the full interview here: