Seemingly every conversation about quarterback Lamar Jackson's seems to circle back to the question about whether the rookie can continue to sustain hits running the ball as much as he has through the first five starts of his career.
Jackson has run the ball -- either designed or scrambles -- 86 times since taking over as the starter in Week 11, more than double the next quarterback over that span. His 114 carries on the season ranks 35th in the entire NFL -- tied for the most on the Ravens with Alex Collins. The big downside is that Jackson has been hit 82 times this season, 31 more than any other QB, per ESPN.
Can Jackson keep taking hits and getting up?
John Harbaugh brushed aside questions about the rookie's rushing attempts.
"I think that's all going to work out over time," Harbaugh said, via the team's official website. "It's a very good question, and I really do think it'll work out over time."
It's a delicate balance that Baltimore is attempting to strike. The offense behind Jackson is fresh, innovative, entertaining and effective. On the flip side, getting a quarterback hit every play isn't ideal.
Jackson ran for 95 of the Ravens' 242 rushing yards in their 20-12 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. Baltimore has now rushed for 1,152 yards over its last five games, with Jackson as the starter. Per ELIAS, since Walter Payton and the Bears rushed for 1,278 yards over a five-game span in Oct/Nov 1977, only one team rushed for as many yards over a five-game span within a season as the Ravens have over their last five games; the Falcons, with Mike Vick leading the way, ran for 1,160 yards over their first five games of the 2006 season.
Harbaugh noted that some of Jackson's "carries" are kneel-downs at the end of games. Jackson has also done a better job in recent weeks of getting out of bounds or sliding down when he can.
"There were some scrambles [Sunday], there were some RPOs, some options where he kept [the ball]," he said. "You know, we had three kneel-downs -- 17 [carries] is really 14, now 14. OK, it's not 15. When you look at all that stuff, take it into account. But to me, over time that will sort itself out."
After sitting on a hot seat earlier in the season, Harbaugh has the Ravens in position to make the playoffs the final two weeks of the season, thanks in large part to Jackson's rushing advantage. A postseason run would almost certainly mean the coach would be around to see Jackson's rushing attempts sort themselves out over time.