LAKE FOREST – NFL defenders know that Lamar Jackson is a difficult man to catch.
In Tashaun Gipson’s mind, there’s no shame in missing a tackle against the Baltimore Ravens quarterback.
“It’s Lamar Jackson, right, so it’s not, like, the end of the world,” the Bears safety said. “It’s not like if Peyton Manning juked you, Tom Brady, that’s different.”
The Bears defense will have to game plan for the speedster quarterback. The Bears and Ravens will square off Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears’ own young, mobile quarterback could learn a thing or two from watching Jackson play.
Fields isn’t exactly the same type of player as Jackson. Fields, officially listed at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, is an inch taller and about 20 pounds heavier than Jackson. But both quarterbacks can fly, even if Fields is a bigger target.
Jackson came into the league in 2018 and was much more comfortable and confident running the ball. Not until his MVP season in 2019 did he truly show what he could do with his arm.
“He came out and a lot of people didn’t want to look at him at quarterback,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “He proved everybody wrong, and the Ravens proved everybody wrong for those who didn’t believe that. What a great credit to him to work as hard as he has to be an NFL quarterback. He’s different. He’s unique in how he plays the game.”
Jackson is, indeed, unique. He leads Baltimore in rushing with 639 yards on 106 attempts in nine games. He ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of the previous two seasons and is on pace to do so again.
His throwing ability has vastly improved since his rookie season. He has 2,447 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He will mostly likely surpass his career-high 3,127 passing yards in 2019, though his eight interceptions are a concern.
Fields has said in the past that he tries to model his game after Russell Wilson. The now 32-year-old Seattle Seahawks quarterback never had the blazing 4.4 speed of Fields or the 4.3 speed of Jackson, but he knows how to pick and choose his spots to run the ball. Wilson might be the happy medium between a mobile quarterback and the traditional pocket passers like Brady or Manning.
Jackson, on the other hand, resembles the days of Michael Vick more than anyone since, well, Vick. Fields said he spent a lot of time while he was at Ohio State last year studying Jackson in the read option.
“When he runs the read option, he staggers his feet so he can be already in a running position to run the ball after he’s reading the defensive ends,” Fields said. “So last year, I kind of just watched how he operated that.”
Bears fans can point to Jackson’s year one to year two leap in 2019 as a reason to be optimistic about their young quarterback. Fields’ game still is evolving. He ran for 103 yards against San Francisco on Oct. 31. He threw for 291 yards against the Steelers a week later. Both were career highs.
Fields doesn’t look at games as one-on-one matchups against the opposing quarterback. He’s going up against the Ravens defense, not Jackson. But much will be made of this matchup between two of the league’s most exciting mobile quarterbacks.
“He’s just proving everybody wrong, and, of course, he’s one of the best in the league right now,” Fields said of Jackson. “So just seeing that young, Black quarterbacks can get the job done, and we don’t have to be old-fashioned, pro-style passers to get it done. It just shows that it’s kind of a new wave coming and that athletic guys can play quarterback.”