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Film Room: Stopping Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens Running Game

The extra extra guy in the box


“Defending Lamar Jackson is easy, just stop him from running”

–Every Browns fan, about Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson has established himself as a running quarterback perhaps like the world has never seen. Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick were surely exceptional runners, but Jackson may be unique even in comparison to them.

As much as it pains me to compliment a baltimore raven, we have to recognize Lamar’s particular gifts in order to recognize that defending him is a unique challenge. We’ve often heard announcers speak of “bringing an extra guy into the box” to stop the ravens’ running game, but that is rarely enough to stop Jackson.

Why? Because one extra guy is not enough. To defend any running quarterback, a defense needs either

a). to have a vastly more talented front than the opposition, or

b). to bring an extra extra guy into the box

In the NFL, teams do not often have the kind of talent advantage to dominate across the entire front. Yes, the Browns might have the best defensive lineman in the NFL in Myles Garrett, and yes, we’ve been a significantly less talented front in many years since the return. But there is parity even between the best teams in the NFL and the candidates for 0-16. Ohio State might have a chance to utilize option A against the likes of Idaho, or the Citadel, for example. But probably not Purdue, or even Rutgers.

Option B is more sound. While Jackson can have some success as a passer, he is no Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady. Bringing the extra extra man into the box can make a defense vulnerable in the passing game, but it doesn’t have to mean playing an extremely risky style. How do you get two extra defenders in the box and stay sound against the pass? Enter Quarters coverage: