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Earl Thomas: Refs need to protect Lamar Jackson more

One of the biggest concerns regarding Lamar Jackson entering the 2018 draft was his long-term health.

The reason: Jackson's hypermobility, which has been an incredible tool for the Baltimore Ravens in his first season and a half, leaves him prone to more hits than the average, pocket-restrained passer. In fact, he's on the Ravens' injury report this week due to a quadriceps injury, though he's likely to play Thursday night against the New York Jets. Oddly enough, Jackson sustained the injury while in the pocket, but naturally, it was on a touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst.

"I feel great. I feel good. I'm 100 [percent]," Jackson said after Tuesday's practice, via ESPN. "I'm going to be out there Thursday night."

While Jackson torches the league with his arm and legs, defenses are left scrambling to find ways to stop this elite scrambler. According to one of his veteran teammates, Jackson needs to be wary of opposing defenses taking additional shots at his legs throughout the remainder of the 2019 campaign.

"Every time somebody hits him, like man, he don't need to be taking those hits," Ravens safety Earl Thomas said Tuesday. "I think the refs need to pay closer attention to that as well and protect him a little bit more. Because teams are trying to do -- I'm not saying they're trying to hurt Lamar -- but they're definitely going at his legs more than they were doing it at first."

Jackson broke 1,000 yards rushing in Sunday's close win over the Buffalo Bills to move the Ravens to 11-2 and officially lock up a playoff berth for the defending AFC North champions. He's tearing apart the opposition in part because of the offense built for him by coordinator Greg Roman, who has introduced pistol and spread concepts to take advantage of Jackson's legs, as well as his threat to run when the Ravens are actually looking to pass. Jackson has taken his share of hits, but he's also avoided them simply by making defenders miss and outrunning the rest.

That could result in some defensive desperation, such as the actions described by Thomas. How such a statement might affect officiating of Jackson's play is yet to be seen. As of now, there haven't been many examples of hits that stick out in the mind of an average NFL viewer, other than the missed tackle attempts that leave defenders helplessly flailing away from Jackson.

He still does get tackled frequently, though, which Thomas appreciates -- as long as they're clean.

"He's very durable. His toughness -- you can't question it," Thomas said. "He's taking a lot of hits. He's sacrificing his body for the team. I respect that."

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