Ravens' Lamar Jackson sends message, via airmail, to every NFL defense

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Following the Baltimore Ravens' 59-10 dismantling of the Miami Dolphins, the cheers came loud and often in the locker room as a team spokesman announced the many superlatives.

Most points scored!

Most yards gained!

Perfect passer rating for Lamar Jackson!

The most resounding stat, however, went unsaid. Jackson finished with more touchdown passes (five) than rushing attempts (three). There were more. Jackson is the youngest player (22 years, 244 days) in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating. He was the first to have a perfect rating in a season opener.

"He’s going to have to get going to set that [rushing] record," coach John Harbaugh said with a chuckle. "I think I bet the over on that."

Harbaugh was making a joke, but this was a demonstrative, season-opening statement by Jackson: Defenses must respect his throwing the ball this season.

Even though he was going against what looks like one of the worst teams in the NFL, Jackson still had to make the throws. He showed great vision, encouraging signs of patience and improved accuracy, going 17 of 20 passing, and he made only one poor toss. His three incompletions were: an overthrow to Marquise Brown, a throwaway pass out of the end zone (everyone was covered) and a drop by Willie Snead IV.

A year after setting the single-season record for runs by a quarterback, Jackson set a new mark, becoming the first Ravens quarterback to finish a game with a perfect passer rating. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jackson posted a Total QBR of 99.4 today. That's the best Total QBR in a game since Joe Flacco posted a 99.4 in Week 6 of 2014.

"Not bad for a running back," Jackson said.

All offseason, Jackson said to anyone who asked that he was going to throw the ball a majority of the time. Still, the narrative had been that defenses were going to stack the box and force Jackson to beat them with his arm. The Ravens believe Jackson's performance Sunday will cause teams to second-guess this strategy.

"This is going to be a different offense," tight end Mark Andrews said. "I don’t think people really believed us when we said that. We’re kind of bringing a different flavor. We’re going to be able to run the ball when we need to and throw the ball when we need to. It’s going to be a pick your poison for the defense."

Jackson threw six touchdown passes in seven starts last season, and first-year general manager Eric DeCosta made it a priority to upgrade the supporting cast around him. For the first time in team history, the Ravens drafted wide receivers with two of their first three picks.

Those players made an immediate impact: Jackson's first two touchdowns went to "Hollywood" Brown, the first-round pick, and Jackson's fourth landed in the hands of third-rounder Miles Boykin. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jackson became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in his first 10 attempts of a season since the Seahawks’ Jeff Kemp in 1987.

"Yeah, you hear the talk, and I knew just from when I got here, I was like, 'I don't know what people been talking about. He looks pretty good to me,'" Brown said. "So I'm glad he got here and he showed what we could do."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jackson's biggest improvements came in handling pressure and throwing deep.

On Sunday, Jackson was 7-of-8 for 113 yards and three touchdowns against the blitz. In 2018, he completed 45.2% of his passes against the blitz, with just one touchdown. Against the Dolphins, he was 2-of-3 with two touchdowns on throws more than 30 yards downfield. Last season, he was 0-of-5. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson was 3-of-4 for 84 yards and two scores throwing into tight windows (less than one yard separation). Jackson was 8-of-30 for 71 yards with no scores and an interception on such passes last season.

Has Jackson put to rest all the talk that he's more of a running back than a quarterback?

"I think everyone's going to always call him a running back. I think that's something that he just thrives on," said fullback Patrick Ricard, who caught one of Jackson's five touchdown passes. "I think he kind of likes it. I think he likes people doubting him because he has that chip on his shoulder. When he's playing, he can just play and just prove them wrong. And I think he did that today, and he's going to keep doing it all season."