Examining another potential Jets Quarterback: Lamar Jackson and perceived injury risk

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens surprised the NFL by opting to use the non-exclusive tag on Quarterback Lamar Jackson, allowing him to sign with another team in exchange for two first round picks in the event the Ravens do not opt to match the offer.

While it is uncommon for a former most valuable player award winner to hit the open market, the reaction from many New York Jets fans has been one of hesitancy. Indeed, a common argument against the Jets pursuing Lamar Jackson is that of perceived risk due to his injury history and play style as a mobile QB. While the former argument may hold weight, the latter seems to be an instance of perception misaligning with reality.

As laid out in 2020 by Spencer Schultz from the sbnation webite BaltimoreBeatdown, Lamar Jackson’s risk profile from a play style perspective may be lower than expected. Schultz’ argument is multi-tiered and begins with the fact that not all rushes end in QBs hit. In the case of Lamar at the time in which Schultz wrote his piece:

Jackson has taken around 150 hits as a result of rushing the ball throughout his 22 career starts.

Analyzing Jackson’s rushing attempts is an incomplete picture because it ignores two major sets of hits Jackson sustains. Sacks and QB hits—

Jackson has been sacked 39 times and hit 75 times since he took the reigns of the Ravens offense in 2018. That brings the grand total up to 264 hits as a runner and passer over 22 starts in the regular season. A rate of 12.0 hits per game.

Extrapolating that to a 16 game season, Jackson is hit roughly 192 times per season.

For context, Russell Wilson took 48 sacks and 111 QB hits in 2019. Without even looking at Wilson’s rushing attempts, he took 159 hits as a passer. DeShaun Watson? 44 sacks and 86 hits, totaling 130 as a passer.

As shown, while Lamar takes more hits, it is not substantially more than two QBs who have since gone on to receive over 390 million in contract guarantees across the two respective five year contracts signed in 2022.

Moreover, research supports that not all hits are as risky as others. Specifically, data supports hits incurred while scrambling are nearly 2x less risky than are hits incurred on sacks or on QB knockdowns on a players per injury basis; additionally, designed reasons are even less risky. Overall, this pattern implies hits taken while running with intent appear less risky than those taken within the pocket, which actually allows Lamar Jackson to incur less risk than other QBs even when taking the same amount of hits due to his volume of designed runs and scrambles. In further support of this claim, there is evidence that injury rates are rather consistent across QBs regardless of their amount of rushes.

So, in essence, while there are many valid reasons to not want Lamar Jackson, the risk associated with his general play style does not appear to be one of them.

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