Lamar Jackson

AFC Notes: Jackson, Miller, Fitzpatrick

Former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the Ravens released a statement denying a report by Michael Lombardi of The Athletic claiming Mornhinweg wanted to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver. Jackson, of course, was the subject of much debate as a draft prospect with many pundits, including ESPN’s Bill Polian, calling for a position change to wide receiver.

Jackson, however, remained adamant that he was a quarterback, was selected in the first round by Baltimore and has taken the NFL by storm over the past two seasons. Mornhinweg, who was replaced by Greg Roman as the team’s offensive coordinator entering this season, made clear in his statement that “My thoughts before the draft, and even more when we started working with Lamar, was that this young man was going to be a special quarterback.” Regardless of what his opinions were at the time, Jackson has proven he is an NFL signalcaller.

Here’s more notes from around the AFC:

  • The Broncos were deflated after blowing a 20-0 lead in their 27-23 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. To try and help team moral, all-pro linebacker Von Miller organized a team dinner just a couple hours after landing back in Denver, according to Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. Per Newman’s report, the dinner was a resounding success. Players brought their family members and seemed to rebound from their loss and get ready for another week.
  • Dolphins head coach Brian Flores told reporters that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain Miami’s starting quarterback this week against the Browns, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Flores, however, would not rule out the possibility of backup quarterback Josh Rosen retaking the job from Fitzpatrick at some point this season.

AFC North Notes: Jackson, JuJu, Browns, Tate

The second of the Ravens‘ two 2018 first-round picks has changed the course of their franchise, with Lamar Jackson becoming an MVP candidate barely a year after he made his first NFL start. Ravens brass took extensive measures to keep their Jackson interest secret. While John Harbaugh has said he discussed Jackson at length with his staff and scouts leading up to the 2018 draft, Eric DeCosta said he and previous Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome did not mention their interest in Jackson to the team’s scouts or coaching staff, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. Nor did the Ravens interview Jackson at the Combine, with Newsome and DeCosta wanting to keep what turned out to be an important secret. The Ravens, however, took a risk on losing Jackson by trading back twice in Round 1. Baltimore selected Hayden Hurst at No. 25 before trading back into the first round, via Philadelphia, for No. 32.

We felt like there was a pretty good chance that Lamar might be there later in the first round, early part of the second round,” DeCosta said, via King. “We were willing, if we could, to trade back, trade back, accumulate capital and then possibly either try to trade back again or in a second round, make a play and get Lamar at that point. But, you know, it was a risk.”

“We were (nervous about losing Jackson). We were. But I think you’ve got to stay as clinical in the moment as you can, and really just go with all your best information and the plan.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Although Myles Garrett‘s appeal will take place Wednesday, the odds the Browns defensive end plays again this season appear slim. “He will not play the rest of the season,” Roger Goodell told OTG’s Gary Myers (via Pro Football Talk). “He will probably meet with us some time in the offseason. We’ll make a judgement. … Does he have remorse? Does he understand why it’s not acceptable? Do we understand what he’s going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Garrett is suspended indefinitely for striking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet.
  • Prior to the AFC North rivals’ game-ending fight, the Steelers saw wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson suffer concussions. In addition to the head injury Smith-Schuster sustained, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) the third-year receiver also sustained a knee injury on the play that ended his night. Smith-Schuster has not missed a game this season but he’s uncertain for Pittsburgh’s Week 12 tilt against Cincinnati.
  • The Bengals observed one of their emerging wideouts stretchered off the field Sunday. Auden Tate is in concussion protocol and suffered a cervical strain, Zac Taylor said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter). Tate flew back to Cincinnati with his teammates and has appeared to escape a serious injury.

AFC North Notes: Jackson, Steelers, Bengals

The RavensLamar Jackson interest began before his junior year at Louisville. It escalated a few weeks before the 2018 draft. During a disagreement among Ravens staffers regarding quarterback preferences going into a draft that would have five QBs taken in the first round, John Harbaugh pronounced his willingness to build a new offense around the dual-threat passer.

If we draft Lamar, I’m good with that,” Harbaugh said during an hours-long discussion about Jackson (via The Athletic’s Dan Pompei, subscription required). “We can build an offense around him. We’ll play great special teams, great defense and be a ball-control offense. We’ll build a big, physical offensive line. We’ll get physical running backs. We’ll block on the perimeter. We’ll run all the elements of the college offense. We’ll do something different.”

After choosing Jackson, the Ravens rode some of Greg Roman‘s Colin Kaepernick-based concepts to a division title. Harbaugh, Roman and then-OC Marty Mornhinweg considered going back to Joe Flacco when the Ravens’ offense stalled for much of their wild-card loss to the Chargers, but each of Harbaugh’s assistants agreed Jackson gave the team the best chance to win. As for the Ravens’ 2019 offense, it will feature similar run designs to what was used last season. But Pompei adds the passing attack was considerably revamped in the offseason.

I expect this to change the way offensive football is played in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “Not that everybody is going to take on this style. But I expect us to create something that hasn’t been seen before. … I think we’re going to be in more elements than any team has ever been.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North, shifting first to Pittsburgh:

  • This weekend, Artie Burns is due an $800K bonus. If the Steelers are to move on from the former first-round pick who has not lived up to that billing, they would stand to limit their losses by doing so soon. Burns’ camp, however, is confident the fourth-year corner will still be a Steeler by week’s end, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Pittsburgh still has Joe Haden and Mike Hilton and added UFA addition Steven Nelson and third-round pick Justin Layne.
  • A hamstring injury will move T.J. Watt to the Steelers’ active/PUP list, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic tweets. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker should be expected to return fairly soon.
  • The Bengals placed Darqueze Dennard and running back Rodney Anderson on their active/PUP list. Dennard underwent offseason knee surgery, while Anderson’s college career ended after an ACL tear. The former Oklahoma running back is a candidate for the reserve/PUP list to start the season, per Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Should Anderson stay on the PUP list to start the season, he must remain there for six regular-season weeks.

John Harbaugh: “Joe’s Going To Have A Market”

It sounds like Joe Flacco‘s tenure with Baltimore may be coming to an end, but head coach John Harbaugh is still a big fan of his long-time quarterback. Following today’s season-ending loss to the Chargers, Harbaugh said the veteran quarterback should have plenty of suitors during the offseason.

“Joe Flacco is going to play really well in this league. Joe can still play — I think we saw that the first half of the season,” Harbaugh said (via Cindy Boren of the Washington Post). “Joe’s going to have a market. There’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to want Joe because they understand that. I’ll be in Joe’s corner wherever he’s at. He’s special. Joe Flacco is a great talent; he’s an even better person. He’s the best QB in the history of the Ravens without question…He’s going to do just fine.”

Harbaugh all but said that Flacco won’t be in Baltimore next season, although this isn’t much of a surprise. It was clear that the veteran’s tenure with the organization was coming to an end when they decided to stick with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson following Flacco’s return from a hip injury.

A report from mid-December indicated that the organization would ultimately either cut or trade the 33-year-old. This offseason marks the first time the Ravens can cut ties with Flacco and save money against the salary cap, although reports have indicated that the front office could help move the veteran to a franchise of his choice.

Flacco was still more-than-serviceable in his nine games this season. The veteran signal-caller completed 61.2-percent of his passes for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Jackson struggled during today’s loss, and Harbaugh admitted that they considered inserting Flacco into the lineup. Ultimately, the veteran didn’t see the field for what will likely be his final game with the franchise.

If this is indeed the end of Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore, the veteran will finish his stint sitting in first for the majority of the team’s all-time passing stats. The 2008 first-round pick even ranks 15th in franchise history in rushing yards, which only accentuates his all-time value to the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Expected To Cut Or Trade Joe Flacco In 2019

This is not particularly surprising news in light of the team’s decision to stick with rookie Lamar Jackson even though Joe Flacco is once again fully healthy, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com) reports that Flacco is not expected to be back with the Ravens in 2019. Jackson is 3-1 in his time as a starter, and he would be 4-0 if not for a difficult loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City last week.

When Baltimore traded back into the first round in this year’s draft to select Jackson, it seemed that Flacco’s time with the Ravens was coming to an end. But Jackson struggled to develop as a passer, the front office finally made a concerted effort to surround Flacco with some weapons, and the team got off to a hot start led by strong play from its long-time signal-caller. The Ravens, though, lost three in a row before Flacco succumbed to a hip injury, and given that Jackson’s presence has opened up the running game, and given that Jackson has made noticeable improvement with his arm (though he is still far from perfect), Baltimore is seemingly prepared to usher in a new era.

This offseason marks the first time the Ravens can cut ties with Flacco and save money against the salary cap, which Rapoport suggests is a possibility. However, RapSheet also says that Baltimore plans to treat Flacco with class and could orchestrate a trade to a team of his choice.

Flacco has received his fair share of criticism over the years, some of which is justified. But the fact remains that, notwithstanding his large contract — which was signed at a time when plenty of teams would have lined up to give it to him — Baltimore’s front office has largely treated the offense as an afterthought, asking Flacco to make hay with a collection of declining veterans or unproven (and generally unproductive) players. Even when the Ravens have tried to invest significant financial or draft resources into the offense, it has rarely worked out (see, e.g.Breshad Perriman).

That is not to mention the parade of uninspiring offensive coordinators the team has employed; it is worth noting that Flacco enjoyed the best regular season of his career when Gary Kubiak served as the team’s OC in 2014, and Baltimore would have qualified for the playoffs in each of the last two seasons if not for backbreaking defensive collapses at the end of the year.

All of which supports Rapoport’s point that Flacco will be a hot commodity this offseason, either as a free agent or as a trade candidate. Rapoport names the Jaguars, Redskins, Dolphins, and Raiders as potential landing spots.

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Ravens To Start Lamar Jackson On Sunday

Joe Flacco is healthy, but he’s not getting his old job back. On Wednesday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Jackson will start for a fifth consecutive game when the Ravens take on the Buccaneers.

Jackson took the reins when Flacco was diagnosed with a slight tear in his hip. Since then, the Ravens have gone 3-1 in Jackson’s starts and nearly made it 4-0 before the Chiefs topped them in overtime on Sunday. The Ravens have been saying all the right things about Flacco so far, but keeping him on the bench when he’s fully healthy could signal the beginning of the end for him in Baltimore.

The Ravens can cut Flacco after the season and save some money against the cap, though they would also have a dead money hit to contend with. Many expect that Baltimore will go that route, assuming Jackson continues to do enough to prove that he is fully ready for the starting gig moving forward. The Ravens may also be able to trade the veteran signal-caller to a QB-needy team.

Jackson, 21, has been a bit inconsistent in his four starts, but they apparently feel that he gives them the best chance to win moving forward. The Ravens currently have a 55% change of reaching the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight, and they’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if they win out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ekeler, Roethlisberger, Jackson, Reed

While Week 14 wasn’t nearly as bad as recent weeks in terms of carnage, there were still some significant injuries to big players today. The Chargers are already dealing with the loss of running back Melvin Gordon to an MCL injury, and may now be without his backfield mate Austin Ekeler for a while. Ekeler aggravated the stingers he’s been dealing with in the team’s win over the Bengals today, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Chargers play in Kansas City this Thursday night in a huge game for playoff seeding, and Schefter writes that “the short week will make it tough” for Ekeler to play.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half in the Steelers‘ loss to the Raiders with a rib injury, but is expected to be fine and play next week against the Patriots, Schefter writes in a separate tweet. Joshua Dobbs filled in for Roethlisberger today, and Big Ben’s absence ended up costing the team the game as they scored zero points with Dobbs under center. The Steelers are just 7-6-1 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a very tough upcoming schedule, so they’ll need Roethlisberger at full strength.
  • In the same tweet, Schefter notes that X-Rays on Lamar Jackson‘s ankle came back negative and that he’s expected to play next week against the Buccaneers. Jackson missed the final plays of the Ravens’ thrilling overtime loss to the Chiefs today, and Robert Griffin III filled in. If Jackson’s ankle ends up becoming an issue, it would further complicate the murky situation between him and Joe Flacco.
  • The Redskins have had some of the worst injury luck in the league, and got even more bad news today. Tight end Jordan Reed sprained his foot, Schefter notes, and will presumably miss some time. Reed has been plagued by injuries the past few years, but had been able to stay healthy so far this year. He’s dealt with foot injuries in the past, so this could very well wind up ending his season. The Redskins are looking to finish strong with new quarterback Josh Johnson, and this will make things significantly more difficult for the offense.

Latest On John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco both joined the team in 2008, and it seems as though their futures in Baltimore have been entwined ever since. We heard not that long ago that Harbaugh was on the hot seat, but now the Ravens are riding a three-game winning streak and have put themselves squarely back in the playoff hunt (even if they lose to the Chiefs today). And, if the team qualifies for the postseason, one would think that Harbaugh, at least, would be returning to Baltimore in 2019.

But that may not be the case. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Harbaugh is high atop the wish list for teams that will be looking for a new HC next year, and if the Ravens do want to move on, they could use that to their advantage. They could negotiate some sort of player/draft compensation with the team that wants Harbaugh, and once that compensation is agreed upon, the new team would then be free to negotiate a contract with Harbaugh directly. Of course, if Baltimore goes on a successful playoff run, that could complicate matters, and it is certainly possible that such a scenario would compel the Ravens to keep Harbaugh for themselves,

Flacco, meanwhile, is inactive for the fourth straight week, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported this morning (via Twitter) that Flacco has looked good in practice this week and would serve as Lamar Jackson‘s backup this afternoon, and Kansas City head coach Andy Reid even said he expected Baltimore to deploy both Jackson and Flacco. However, the Ravens will now be able to postpone the Jackson vs. Flacco decision for at least one more week.

We knew that Flacco was battling a hip injury, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that Flacco has been dealing with a slight tear in his hip (video link). Flacco apparently believes he is healthy enough to start, but Rapoport would not be surprised if Baltimore continues to start Jackson until the rookie falters (if he falters). Indeed, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets that, even if Flacco were active today, Jackson would be the guy. Glazer said simply, “Jackson is their QB.”

The Ravens can cut Flacco after the season and save some money against the cap, though they would also have a dead money hit to contend with. Many expect that Baltimore will go that route, assuming Jackson continues to do enough to prove that he is fully ready for the starting gig moving forward. Of course, the Ravens could also trade Flacco to a team in search of a veteran signal-caller.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Jets, Browns, Harris, Ravens

Mike McCarthy may well have options going into this coming hiring period, but the Jets might not be a great fit. The status of GM Mike Maccagnan will likely be a deterrent for a coach with other options — in the likely event Todd Bowles is fired soon — multiple NFL executives told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv. The New York GM has just one more season remaining on his deal and is not expected to follow Bowles out the door. A lame-duck decision-maker could spook McCarthy. With former Packers execs John Dorsey, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf in Cleveland, many people around the league believe McCarthy will end up with the Browns, Vacchiano notes. The Browns also have a young quarterback and are projected to possess more than $86MM in cap space. While that’s not on the Jets’ level ($106MM-plus), Vacchiano adds McCarthy is known as being a bit sensitive to criticism. That might be an issue in jumping from the league’s smallest market to its biggest.

Here’s more from the Jets and the latest from the AFC:

  • Josh McCown received another start for the Jets on Sunday, doing so despite Sam Darnold being at or close to 100 percent. The rookie quarterback lobbied to play against the Titans during warmups, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, but Bowles stuck with McCown. Bowles would not commit to Darnold starting against the Bills in Week 14, but Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports Darnold showed he was healthy in practice and will likely return Sunday.
  • On the subject of possible quarterback switches, the Ravens may be able to put off their decision for another week. Joe Flacco was not moving too well this week, walking with a noticeable limp, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. While the Ravens could be forced into a choice of benching Lamar Jackson (3-0 as a starter) and returning to Flacco for a pivotal game in Kansas City, this call might be tabled. The possibility of Flacco returning as the starter at some point this month is not out of the question, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, but Jackson may see more work off the bench than he previously did when Flacco was healthy. The difficult prospect of preparing for the quarterbacks’ disparate skill sets intrigues John Harbaugh, per Rapoport, so the Ravens may keep it quiet if they do intend to pivot back to Flacco.
  • Although the Broncos improved to 6-6 Sunday, it came at a cost. Denver lost one of its top players in Chris Harris to a fractured fibula. However, the All-Pro cornerback is not going to be placed on IR and has a goal of returning before a potential playoff game. The eighth-year defender wants to return by Week 17, when the Broncos play the Chargers in what could be a key game — if Denver wins out and receives help — for Vance Joseph‘s team. “I always heal fast,” Harris told Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com.“I’ve got the right people around me to help me get back fast and I’ll work night and day to get back. My goal is three weeks, but they said four. My goal is three weeks because I want to play against [the Chargers].” Harris’ other notable injury (a torn ACL) came against the Chargers in a 2013 divisional playoff game, but the corner returned by Week 1 in 2014.
  • By intercepting three passes, Harris already cashed in $200K of the incentive package he agreed to in the offseason. But another key financial bump is tied to playing time. Despite standing to miss perhaps the rest of the regular season, Harris can still earn an additional $300K if his 736 snaps end up being 65 percent of Denver’s season total, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes (subscription required), adding that scenario is in play.

Ravens To Start Lamar Jackson In Week 13

A potential Joe Flacco-or-Lamar Jackson decision may not be here yet, with the longtime Ravens starting quarterback not yet cleared. But his rookie backup will have another opportunity to stake his claim for the job.

Jackson will start Sunday against the Falcons, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Flacco has not been cleared, but that could change this week. If he’s cleared and Jackson remains in place as the starter, it could signal an era change in Baltimore.

Flacco’s been the Ravens’ starter since being chosen in the 2008 first round. Coming into this season, he’d missed just six games — all in 2015 — and had the Ravens in playoff contention this year prior to going down with a hip injury. But against a tough part of their schedule, the Flacco-led Ravens lost three straight. Under Jackson, against the Bengals and Raiders, the Ravens have won their past two games and are in a stronger position for a postseason spot.

Jackson has a long way to go as a passer, but he’s helped the Baltimore ground game immensely. The Ravens rushed for 267 yards against the Bengals and 242 against the Raiders. They hadn’t exceeded 123 in any of their first nine contests. Jackson amassed a Ravens-record 117 yards on the ground in Week 11 and gained 71 rushing yards Sunday.

The Ravens have not seen Flacco on their practice field since he suffered the hip injury, and The Athletic’s Jeff Zreibec notes (via Twitter) it will take a full week of practice before the Ravens consider turning back to Flacco. John Harbaugh stopped short of indicating Flacco would get his job back when he was healthy again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.