After a gut-wrenching loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills look to bounce back in NFL Week 4 as they travel to face the Baltimore Ravens in a battle between two of the NFL’s most dominant quarterbacks – Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.
Through three games, both 2018 first-round draft picks have led their teams to 2-1 records thanks to their incredible play styles that we’ve grown accustomed to over the last four-plus seasons.
While the Ravens’ defense will spend the week conjuring ways to combat Allen’s huge arm and ability to extend plays with his legs, Buffalo is facing a similar task as they look to slow down the electrifying Jackson, who’s already rushed for 249 yards and two scores on the ground, while proving that he’s a prolific passer as well.
Coach Sean McDermott was among several members of the Bills to discuss Jackson’s talent and growth with the media on Wednesday and it’s clear that the team knows they’re tasked with a uniquely difficult matchup this week.
“Lamar is a tremendous player. He’s an elite player. One of the faces of the NFL. I just think it’s got to be a total team effort,” McDermott said. “He’s just so good in so many different areas, that they can (as an offense) put up points in a hurry.”
To this point in his young career, the 25-year-old Jackson’s biggest weapon has been his legs; his speed, agility, and ability to make defenders miss in a phone booth are second-to-none among his peers in the NFL. But he’s taken a giant leap as a passer in 2022, elevating his game to an entirely different level. Entering Week 4, Jackson leads the league in touchdown passes (10), while throwing for 749 yards at 8.5 yards-per-attempt (No. 3) with just two interceptions and a league-leading passer rating of 119.
“Lamar is as dynamic as it gets,” Buffalo’s veteran defensive end Von Miller said. “Early in his career, they tried to say he’s just a runner and he’s done nothing but prove that he’s the total package. He can throw the ball, he can run the ball. He can do whatever it takes to win games and put his teammates in great situations to win. That’s why he should be the highest-paid player in the NFL, he should have the biggest contract of all the quarterbacks. He’s done everything to deserve that.”
Jackson has played behind a banged-up offensive line that’s struggled to run the ball effectively, with a cast of average-at-best receivers behind Rashod Bateman. Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but it’s Lamar’s superstar ability that’s kept Baltimore’s offense among the league’s best in nearly every statistical category.
“He is (a good passer) and the stats reflect that,” McDermott added. “That’s why he’s as good as he is. He’s a two-dimensional player and one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
Defensive end Greg Rousseau, who’s blossoming into a monster edge player, will need to play his best and smartest football Sunday if Buffalo hopes to limit Jackson. Keeping Jackson in the pocket will be paramount to success for the Bills’ defense and the former Miami Hurricane says it’s about getting back to basics.
“It all comes back to fundamentals, Rousseau says is the key to defending Lamar Jackson. “Running your feet when you tackle, breaking down, playing with pad level, not getting your feet crossed over because he’ll make you miss very easy.
“He’s such a threat with his legs and his arm. You can’t get caught trying to do too much because he’s going to make you pay for it. We’ve got to be locked into our assignments and play sound football.”
The Bills have done a solid job wrapping up ball carriers, missing just 13 tackles through three games. Only two players (DaQuan Jones, Kaiir Elam) have missed more than one tackle. But coach McDermott knows that bringing down a player as explosive and nimble as Jackson will be a monumental effort that requires complete synergy on defense.
“The perimeter of the defense is important,” McDermott explained. “You’ve got to be assignment sound, whoever’s job that is on every player. It’s got to be a great effort and we’ve got to play great team defense.” It’s good to be in position, but if you can’t make the play then you’ve got a problem. We’ve got athletic players, but the discipline piece is important.”
Despite being just a Week 4 matchup, this is a game with real playoff implications. Both teams share a common loss to the Miami Dolphins and will likely be fighting for home-field advantage by season’s end. And if Buffalo can improve on their 5-1 record after a loss since the start of the 2021 season, it will all come down to the defense shutting down one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers.
“Nobody’s like Lamar, says Von Miller. “He’s quick, he’s twitchy. Any little space he gets, he can take it the distance. He’s a blend of so many different players. He can throw the ball, his base is a quarterback but he can move like a receiver, hit the edge, and make guys miss like a running back. He’s the guy and if I say anything different, it’s bulletin board material, but he’s the truth.”