Can Baltimore Truly Establish a Dual-Quarterback Offense?

Conor Orr
Sports Illustrated
Lamar Jackson’s first appearance in the Ravens offense on Sunday was at wide receiver—kind of.

Can Baltimore Truly Establish a Dual-Quarterback Offense?

Lamar Jackson’s first appearance in the Ravens offense on Sunday was at wide receiver—kind of.

Lamar Jackson’s first appearance in the Ravens offense on Sunday was at wide receiver—kind of.

The first-round pick made his NFL debut at the 13:02 mark, on second-and-16 near midfield. Jackson was lined up just inside Michael Crabtree on the right-hand side. He was a decoy on a fake jet sweep handoff, and the ball eventually went to Alex Collins for a short gain up the middle. A few plays later on that same drive, Jackson lined up as a quarterback in a pistol/full house-type formation, with Flacco lined up as a receiver to the right.

Jackson kept an option handoff for no gain. Flacco, like most quarterbacks who split out for wildcat-type formations, did not advance to block.

Scroll to continue with content

The Ravens built up enough of a lead over the hapless Bills to give Jackson some garbage time (he finished 1-of-4 for 24 yards in 30 total snaps), but what happened on Baltimore’s first drive was by far the most interesting aspect of Sunday’s game plan. It was not necessary. Joe Flacco looked great; comfortable with the best set of weapons he’s had since the team’s Super Bowl run in 2012. He backed up the effusive praise he received from those inside the organization this offseason, who saw the potential for a renaissance year from the franchise quarterback now that he’s totally healthy.

Still, the temptation to take Flacco out and insert another passer into the game was high, because, like many coaches and coordinators before them, John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg are chasing the elusive opportunity to mess with the heads of future opponents.

It didn’t take long for the broadcast to mention Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier admitting in production meetings that he had to prepare for the potential of Jackson on the field. This is catnip for other coaches, who understand the grind and what a few minutes away from their game plan could mean. This was always Rex Ryan’s rationale for the quixotic Tim Tebow experiment with the Jets, and the defining legacy of the wildcat era in Miami.

But Baltimore has a starting quarterback who can actually throw the football.

Perhaps the greatest gift the Ravens got to start this season was an opponent who allowed them to experiment with almost no downside relative to the final score. Now that this is on film it is something to consider for teams down the road. The question is, can Jackson evolve enough over the course of a season to make it truly dangerous, or can Flacco put such a stranglehold on this offense where it’s not even necessary anymore?

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.


NOW ON THE MMQB: The Jets are good again. Jenny Vrentas on the rookie quarterback with a defense at his back ... Ben Baskin on the only member of the Chiefs who can properly challenge the opinion of a team medical trainer ... Robert Klemko delivers the warm and fuzzies on Shaquem Griffin and his super mom....

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on how Aaron Rodgers needs half the legs of normal quarterbacks to be good.... Andrew Brandt remembers the week of September 11 through the eyes of an NFL executive ... Jacob Feldman with a nice job breaking down the Monday Night Football booth.


1. Bad news for the Panthers and stalwart tight end Greg Olsen.

2. Will Grier is an early Heisman favorite, and could be quarterbacking an underperforming NFL team near you soon.

3. Lions head coach Matt Patricia is among those who don't believe the Jets knew all of the Lions' plays during Monday night's blowout.

4. A skunk apparently got loose in the Raiders' tunnel before the game—a dubious olfactory start to the Jon Gruden tenure in Oakland.

5. The next stop on the Corey Coleman employment tour is New England.

6. Patrick Mahomes is here to destroy the NFL.

7. Forget about Aaron Rodgers, it's time to start talking about true hero Geronimo Allison.


We've seen attempted cheating at the highest levels of sport. Football, cycling, baseball. But now, something truly disturbing: Unsavory activity at the Pokemon World Championships.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at

What to Read Next