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Opposing Player Spotlight: Week 1 - Baltimore Ravens

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How will the Miami Dolphins handle Baltimore’s dynamic quarterback on opening weekend?

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

We’re back! The NFL season is officially upon us, and the Miami Dolphins are taking on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to officially kick off South Florida football action. With a roster gutted of most of last year’s proven talent, head coach Brian Flores faces a tall task attempting to take down the Ravens and the team’s explosive young quarterback.

With another new football season comes the return of a fan-favorite series: Opposing Player Spotlight!

Each week of the 2019 season, I will be highlighting one player on the team squaring off with the Miami Dolphins that ‘phins fans should be watching out for. This week, that player is Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Do you have a player recommendation for next week’s spotlight? Let me know on Twitter @HierJustin.

Fact Check: Lamar Jackson

Position: QB

Experience: 2nd season

Age: 22

Height/Weight: 6’2”, 212 lbs

College: Louisville

Stat Review

With no statistics to examine from this season, let’s take a look back at 2018. In Jackson’s rookie season, the speedy QB started seven games following Joe Flacco’s benching. Jackson completed 99 of 170 pass attempts (58.2%) for 1,201 passing yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 84.5.

Though the Ravens have hyped up Jackson’s improvements throwing the football this offseason, he is primarily known for the immense threat he poses on the ground. Last season, the dynamic runner racked up 695 rushing yards at 4.7 yards per attempt. He also tacked on five rushing scores and eight rushes of 20 yards or more. Jackson’s trouble taking care of the football will be another area he must improve upon this year, as he fumbled the ball 10 times in 2018.

Key Matchups

Though Jackson, as the quarterback, doesn’t match up with any one player on defense, it’s the linebacker position that will hold the primary responsibility of keeping the speedster in check. Miami’s base defense (according to the team’s depth chart) is a 3-4, which means four players will be lined up at linebacker on many of the team’s defensive snaps. Sure, the team will deploy a 4-3 look, nickel and dime packages, and possibly some exotic defensive formations, but each time, coach Flores will have to ensure his linebackers are ready to corral Jackson and his rushing ability, possibly with a QB spy.

With Sam Eguavoen and Jerome Baker sure to see a majority of the defensive snaps at linebacker, both will have to use their agility and awareness to keep Jackson in check. Given that both Baker and Eguavoen specialize in sideline-to-sideline agility, Flores is sure to rely on their quickness and instincts.

I’d also be remiss to refrain from noting that a particular playoff team from last season has demonstrated a once-proven way to hold back Jackson’s rushing ability, and that team is the Los Angeles Chargers. During the 2018-2019 playoffs, the Chargers routinely deployed nickel (5 DBs) and dime (6 DBs) packages to keep the most agile players on the field. Doing so allowed the defense to have its fastest defenders track down Jackson on the field. However, that strategy as an obvious downside in that it allows Baltimore to run up the middle with a power back like Mark Ingram without having to deal with stacked boxes and capable run-defending linebackers fortifying the middle of the field.