Lamar Jackson: 'It was dope' to get a roughing the passer call after nearly two years

After a week spent talking about how he doesn’t get them, Lamar Jackson received his first roughing the passer call of the season Monday night In Baltimore’s win over Indianapolis.

He appreciated the protection.

“That was a pretty dope call and it was fair, too,” Jackson said Wednesday, via ESPN. “He did hit me in the face. It wasn’t like it was no BS call or nothing like that. It was dope to get one.”

Jackson was two-hand shoved in the facemask by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who was put in the precarious position of having to decide in a split second whether he was going to attempt to sack Jackson, dive toward him to prevent Jackson from escaping as he so often does, or attempt to bat down a pass from Jackson, should he decide to throw it. The result was Leonard diving toward Jackson, arms up near the height needed to deflect a pass, but in a shoving motion that would be akin to a defender pushing a quarterback but pulling up to avoid earning a roughing call for landing on the quarterback.

He was flagged anyway for contact to the head and neck area.

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Yes, it’s difficult to be a pass rusher these days. You could sack a quarterback, but have your momentum carry you on top of the passer, landing on him as he hits the ground and drawing a flag. You could trip on your way toward him and fall at his feet, drawing a flag (which is intended to prevent defenders from diving at a quarterback’s legs). You could get caught between trying to defend a pass and sack a quarterback, as Leonard was Monday night.

And against a player like Jackson — carrier of many designed runs, author of even more highlight-reel plays — it’s nearly impossible to avoid being where Leonard was midway through the third quarter Monday night.

Jackson doesn’t get many roughing calls because he’s not the type of quarterback who scrambles and gives himself up a whole lot. In fact, Jackson hasn’t gotten a roughing call in nearly two calendar years. But Jackson is uniquely elite as a ballcarrier, capable of ripping off an 80-yard run at any time while making a few defenders look foolish along the way.

This means he must be pursued differently by defenders, who are more concerned with preventing him from breaking loose than they are about avoiding a roughing call.

What’s often forgotten: Jackson is very much a quarterback, and a defense’s dogged pursuit of him doesn’t mean it can bend the rules. The quarterback decided to be vocal about his rare place in the NFL last week and finally saw the benefit Monday night.

Did it end up mattering to the game? Not really. Jackson eventually fumbled — as an unquestioned ballcarrier — at the goal line, which Leonard recovered.

But going forward, Jackson might feel better about the folks in stripes making sure to protect him just as any other quarterback.

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