The Ravens have a Lamar Jackson problem that’s bigger than Joe Flacco’s potential return

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – With each burst of acceleration, Lamar Jackson has carried the Baltimore Ravens back to relevancy since taking over as starting quarterback three games ago.

The Ravens’ defense has certainly played its part, holding opponents to an average of 211 yards and 18 points a game. And Jackson’s heroics haven’t come without contributions from his offensive teammates.

But the rookie has been central to Baltimore’s success, directing an offense that has dominated time of possession by approximately 15 minutes per game.

But more importantly, he has infused the Ravens with optimism. Losers of three straight and the owners of a 4-5 record, Baltimore previously appeared bound for irrelevance but now stands as the AFC's sixth seed.

Coach John Harbaugh turned to Jackson with Joe Flacco sidelined by a hip injury, and the former Heisman Trophy has delivered. But there's no clarity on how Harbaugh will handle the potential controversy once the 11th-year veteran fully recovers.

Harbaugh said the 33-year-old Super Bowl XLVII MVP would ramp up his practice activity this week. But for now, the Ravens are operating as though Jackson will start against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday.

But another kind of uncertainty also looms regarding Jackson.

There’s no denying his talent. Jackson has speed and elusiveness that rival Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III. He’s great in space, runs with good instincts and is hard to tackle. And offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has orchestrated an attack that has made him effective despite passing skills that remain unrefined by NFL standards.

However, each run and subsequent tackle raise questions about his sustainability. NFL defenses almost always manage to catch up. So, what will happen once defenders figure out how to force him to remain in the pocket and rely on his arm? More importantly, how long can Jackson’s 6-foot-2, 212-pound frame withstand the hits he has subjected himself to?

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