Baltimore Ravens: Is Lamar Jackson the clear-cut NFL MVP?

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Electric, dynamic and winning, is Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson the runaway NFL MVP or should we look elsewhere for the ‘most valuable’?

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has catapulted himself into being the NFL MVP frontrunner this year with his masterful work from the pocket coupled with his elite rushing ability. But is this 2019 NFL MVP race an open-and-shut case? Is Jackson the clear-cut MVP, or can somebody swing in last second and steal it from him?

As it sits right now, the MVP race has two horses leading the charge. One is Jackson, who’s having a historic season, already breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record with two games left on the schedule. The other is Russell Wilson, who is leading the Seattle Seahawks to the No. 1 seed in the NFC seemingly all by his lonesome. How do the two stack up?

In the case of Jackson, we’ve not only seen the rushing stats he’s put up, which we all knew were in his repertoire, but we’ve also witnessed the upgrade from an inaccurate and flunky thrower of the football coming out of college to a stellar passer in the timespan of just one offseason.

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Jackson started just seven regular-season games a year ago for the Ravens and went 6-1 in those starts. He completed 58 percent of his passes and ended the year with a QBR of 46.3.

What really stuck out, unfortunately, was not his skill in the run department but the lack of throwing attempts he was making per game, which culminated in his only playoff appearance to date, which he lost to the Los Angeles Chargers at home on Wild Card Weekend and completed just 14 of his 29 passing attempts (a well-remembered game in his short career).

Fast-forward to 2019, however, and we’ve not only seen a full season of Jackson tearing up the turf with his electric run game (1,103 rushing yards, seven touchdowns, and 6.9 yards per attempt), but also his much-improved passing game.

Not only did Jackson bulk up this offseason and become a harder runner to tackle with the weight and size he put on, but he also took tremendous strides in the passing game and ironed out some kinks in his throwing motion. That has paid off with a 66.2 percent completion rate and 33 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

What Jackson has done this year is one of the biggest “improvement” jobs ever seen in the NFL from one season to the next. Jackson has gone from a promising rookie to an MVP candidate. Any kind of “sophomore slump” surely didn’t find its way to Lamar Jackson’s camp.

But when we look at the title of “Most Valuable Player,” are we evaluating the player with the best stats or the “most-improved,” or should we consider just how “valuable” that player is to his franchise? If the answer to that question is the latter, then a much stronger case could be made that Russell Wilson is the NFL MVP in 2019.

With Jackson, yes, he’s put up unbelievable statistics and has wowed the world of football, seemingly stumping defenses and blowing out very good teams, most notably the two Super Bowl teams from a year ago in the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. But look around him and then look around Wilson in Seattle.

Jackson has the full package of a supporting cast. He has a great head coach in John Harbaugh, a great offensive line, a solid run game, three tight ends that can run block and get down the field, one of the fastest guys in the NFL in Marquise Brown at wide receiver, an ever-improving defensive front seven and one of the best secondaries in football that added Marcus Peters not too long ago.

Jackson even has two of the best mentors in the game today in Mark Ingram at running back and Robert Griffin III (who’s the antithesis of Lamar Jackson in the art of “safe running”) behind him at quarterback. All in all, the Ravens have 12 Pro Bowlers including Jackson himself.

No, this Ravens team would not be the same without Jackson playing the way he has this year. But again, if we’re talking about who’s been “more valuable,” Wilson may actually prove to be the better choice in that particular debate.

Other than Pete Carroll on the sidelines, the Seahawks roster doesn’t hold a candle to that of the Ravens this year. And yet, they’re still in line to be the top seed in the NFC if they win out. That’s because of Wilson and the phenomenal playmaking ability he’s offered. Through it all, he’s put up 3,708 passing yards with 28 touchdowns to only five interceptions and a completion percentage of 67.4.

The Seahawks would not be where they are right now if not for their quarterback. They have a hit-or-miss running game with Chris Carson, who’s been pulled this year a couple of times for fumbling issues. Their offensive line is one of the worst pass-blocking units in the league. Their defense is giving up nearly 25 points and 271 passing yards per game while also having the third-fewest sacks in the league (24).

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Wilson has made the Seahawks what they are this year and has elevated the play of his receivers around him. Jackson has shaped the Ravens in his own way as well, to be sure. But take each of these quarterbacks off their respective teams and see which team nosedives first.

Who’s had the bigger year? Who’s put up the more impressive stats? Who won the game in which the two quarterbacks we’re comparing faced off? Lamar Jackson. But if the MVP is going to go to the player who has been the most valuable to his team, Russell Wilson has to have the edge in that particular argument.