Lamar Jackson presents problems for Chargers

Coming off a mega-sized victory over the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers are gearing up to face a surging Baltimore Ravens team that is scrapping for playoff position.

Going from facing Patrick Mahomes to Lamar Jackson seems akin to going from a rock concert to a jazz fest.

An MVP candidate, Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and can dive-bomb defenses from every angle through the air. Jackson has the Ravens streaking at 4-1 over their last five with a devastating ground game that tortures defense. Since Jackson entered the lineup, the Ravens offense ranks first in rushing yards per game (230.4), first in run percentage (64.5), first in rushing first downs (66) and is tied for first in rushes of 10-plus yards (28).

"I think between Lamar and Mahomes, they're equally dangerous," Chargers safety Adrian Phillips said, via the L.A. Times. "Mahomes, OK, he can throw it a mile. Lamar can throw it like crazy, too, but he can blink and he's running 70 yards.

"So throughout the week we'll have drills that focus on keeping the quarterback in the pocket and not letting him get out. But he's a great athlete. He's gonna get out. We just have to make sure that when he does, we get him on the ground quick."

From a purely quarterbacking level, putting Jackson on Mahomes' level seems absurd. Mahomes has diced up defenses by making a cornucopia of absurd throws and sits as the MVP front-runner heading into the final two weeks.

But when taken from Phillips' perspective, the comparison holds more water. As a defense, corralling Jackson isn't about just hitting the quarterback, it's about containing the QB run while also defending a bus-like ball carrier in Gus Edwards. The Ravens have a one-two combo punch that no other NFL offense is running. Their uniqueness makes them fun and dangerous.

The Ravens have 190-plus rush yards in five straight games under Jackson, tied for the third longest single-season streak in the Super Bowl era. Baltimore is the first team to earn a streak of five-plus games over the 190-yard mark since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers (lost AFC Championship).

That's correct, the 2018 Baltimore Ravens are doing something that hasn't been seen in the NFL since the '70s Steelers. In that context, every defense better be on its toes.

"I haven't seen a quarterback run like this since Tim Tebow in Denver in 2011 when he took them to the playoffs," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "And I think they're running it even more."

It's an oversimplification to assume defenses can simply stack the box to contain the Ravens run game.

According to Next Gen Stats, since Week 11, Baltimore has rushed into a stacked box on 20.1 percent of its carries (16th-highest rate over that span) and rushed into a light box (<7 defenders in box) on 38.5 percent of carries, the 17th-highest rate over that span.

On the season, the Chargers rank ninth in the NFL versus the run (103.7 yards per game), but have allowed just 82.8 rush yards per game since Week 12. Joe Mixon (111) and Todd Gurley (105) are the only two players to break the 100-yard rushing plateau this season versus L.A.

Holding Jackson and the rest of the Ravens run-game below 150 total rushing yards would be a win at this point.

"It's going to be challenging. It's like playing a college-style offense," Phillips said of facing the Ravens.

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