How fast is Lamar Jackson? It’s like trying to catch ‘roadrunner’

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr had watched how fast Lamar Jackson was on film and wanted to see if he could get a hand on the rookie quarterback during training camp.

Jackson broke through the middle of the line, and Carr darted toward him. Did he come close to Jackson? Carr shook his head.

“He’s like a roadrunner. His feet go so fast,” Carr said. “His vision and his feet are always on the same page. He’s out there just gliding. Some people are built like that. He has some different hamstrings or tendons down there.”

Jackson has shown a burst that’s at a different level than other NFL players. There’s fast and there’s Lamar-fast.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson has 19 rushes over the past two weeks in which he has reached speeds of at least 15 miles per hour. That’s nine more than the next closest players, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara.

“We all are sports fans, and ‘speed kills’ is what they say, in any sport, really, so it’s fun to watch,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I always just go by, for any kind of ball carrier, by how many people they make miss, or changing the angles. To me, that always is the comparison when you watch them in terms of how they affect the game. I think that’s how you can judge the speed, more than how they look running.”

Jackson’s 190 yards rushing are the most through a quarterback’s first two starts in the Super Bowl era. For the two most prolific running quarterbacks in NFL history, Michael Vick had 51 yards in his first two starts and Randall Cunningham ran for 150 yards.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who faces Jackson on Sunday, believes the hardest part to prepare for is Jackson’s speed. On the Ravens’ run-option plays, Jackson has the zip to get to the edge if the defender setting the edge bites inside. On passing plays, Jackson has the explosiveness to pull down the ball and race 10 to 15 yards if defenses play man-to-man and turn their back on him.

“It’s difficult to simulate, because he has such quickness and speed, like a wide receiver or a corner has, but he’s behind center,” Quinn said. “Simulating that speed at practice, that’s the most difficult part, because you could do it with a receiver for the run plays, but it’s not as authentic, because you can’t step back and rip the passes like normal.”

Over the past two games, only five players have run for more yards than Jackson. His 5.1 yards per-carry average this season ranks 10th in the NFL among players with at least 60 carries — which is better than the likes of Todd Gurley, Elliott and Christian McCaffrey.

So, how fast is Jackson? A day after being the No. 32 player drafted overall, Jackson was asked if he had a time in the 40-yard dash.

His answer: 4.34.

“I ran it with turf toe, too,” Jackson said. “So, I don’t know what I really run.”

While Jackson’s running ability is his strength, it also represents his biggest potential problem. In his first NFL start, Jackson was contacted 26 times when passing or rushing. In comparison, a pocket passer such as Andrew Luck has been hit 25 times for the entire season.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he didn’t realize until looking at the stat sheet that Jackson had run 26 times in his first start, the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

“I didn’t sleep very well,” Mornhinweg said. “I usually sleep pretty well after one of those [wins].”

Vick said this week that Jackson has to “proceed with caution” and the optimum number of carries for him is 10 to 12 per game. Mornhinweg has a number in mind where he wants to keep Jackson’s carries but declined to divulge it.

“There comes a time where [we’ll do] whatever it takes to win the game, as well,” Mornhinweg said.

What separates Jackson from other quarterbacks who take off running is his cutting ability and his knack for setting up blocks. Over the past two games, Jackson has broken four runs of more than 10 yards, which leads all quarterbacks.

Many believe you can’t really describe Jackson’s speed until you see it first-hand.

“Whether you watched college ball or not last year, you definitely saw a clip of him running. One of the things that you say is, ‘Oh man, he’s fast! He’s this and that,'” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “Since he’s been here, I think he’s been way faster than what I would’ve thought on TV. He can take it to the house easily from anywhere.”

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