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Glenn Clark: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson Shouldn't Run In Preseason Games

August 19, 2019
I'm not sure why this would even be something fans would be defensive about. 

The premise is simple. During the Ravens' preseason win against the Green Bay Packers Aug. 15, quarterback Lamar Jackson darted for a breathtaking 18-yard touchdown run that would be called back due to a penalty. Football Twitter, desperate for something that even looks interesting, raced to shoot out the video with comments like "Lamar Jackson is a video game" or "that boy fast" or "I have nothing interesting to say but I'd really like you to retweet this because I need clout more than I need air to breathe" or whatever. 

To be fair, the run was super cool. Like, even cooler than letting two runs score on an infield pop-up and then having your catcher hit by a ball in the junk. It was a spectacular highlight and a reminder of the unbelievable natural talent Jackson possesses. For a franchise that hasn't been terribly exciting in recent years, these are the types of moments they had to vision giving itself greater relevance after selecting Jackson in 2018. 

But then there's the other thing. You know ... where it wasn't actually a thing. Not because the touchdown was called back; that part is irrelevant. It's the thing where this is the preseason and scoring a touchdown there improved the Ravens' chances of winning the Super Bowl by exactly zero percent. 

In fact, when Jackson took off running on that play there was at least a small chance of something awful happening. (You know, a linebacker NOT missing him and instead punishing him with a hit that caused him to miss a real football game in the future.) There was absolutely no chance of something good happening because this wasn't a real football game and the only things that matter are the injuries. 

This isn't a "hot take." This is milder than the sauce they give you when you order fried pickles that my mother in law inexplicably always says is "too spicy" for her. Lamar Jackson shouldn't run downfield during preseason games. Ravens coaches should make sure Lamar Jackson knows not to run downfield during preseason games. They should be damn well certain that he doesn't put himself in any unnecessary risk during preseason games. This shouldn't require me writing a column. This should be the most agreeable concept in the history of sports.

Of course ... there are dissenters. 

Take, for example, this combination of tweets from writer Ryan Mink. (I'm not trying to go after him; I like Ryan a lot, and he's FAR from the only one who has said something like this.)

This is the easiest dissent from which to retort. OF COURSE Lamar Jackson is going to run the ball. Of course he SHOULD run the ball. The Ravens have reportedly set up some parameters for him this season -- including not cutting back inside, which will be fascinating to monitor -- but they didn't draft Lamar Jackson because they wanted to neuter his skill set. 

He should run, he's going to run and there will have to be an accepted amount of risk that comes with that. Yes, quarterbacks get hurt in the pocket too, but in the open field every player is at greater risk -- particularly those who aren't built like Brock Lesnar. You have to accept that risk with Lamar Jackson as your quarterback. Maybe you try to prevent 25 carries a game, but you accept the risk. 

You just do it during a game that actually matters. If Jackson wants to take off in the red zone in Miami in September, by all means! Those are the games the team needs to win! They've won 14 preseason games in a row and we don't even get a goddamn T-shirt to celebrate it because they're absolutely worthless. This just isn't hard to figure out! "Lamar, we know you love to run, but for these couple of weeks we just need you to, like, NOT do that so we can make sure you can play when we have to try to beat Patrick Mahomes in a month. Please toss the ball away if you don't see something." 

A dissenter might say, "Sure, the results of preseason games don't matter, but the idea is to try to practice scenarios you might see in the regular season," or whatever nonsense babble to try to justify the existence of preseason games. It's just that. The Ravens are largely running a base offense in the preseason because they believe the benefit of trying to "practice" their offensive revolution in these "games" doesn't even outweigh the risk of simply putting plays on tape. 

And Lamar Jackson needs no practice taking off with the football. He's as good (or likely better) at it as perhaps any quarterback in the history of the game. He's as good at running with the ball as that Little League kid as at creating a stance that prevents any pitcher from ever being able to throw a strike.

Realistically, Jackson only has one more preseason game to play, and the odds of him getting hurt on a downfield run are slim. But you still have to hope he was greeted on the sideline after that drive against the Packers much like Willie Mays Hays was when he saw Lou Brown in the dugout after his impressive basket catch. (Warning: language.)

We're going to be nervous when Lamar Jackson runs. But for as long as he's good and healthy enough to be the Ravens' quarterback, he just shouldn’t do it in preseason games. Which hopefully won't be around that much longer anyway. 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox