Triple Threat of Lamar Jackson, Return of Joe Flacco Complicates Prep for Chiefs

Dec 2, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles up the field against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Preparation for the Chiefs in taking on the Baltimore Ravens this weekend requires a bit of ingenuity and creativity, considering head coach Andy Reid must prepare not only for the possibility both Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson may play quarterback but also dealing with the triple-threat Jackson poses in the lineup.

“He’s as fast as a wide receiver, can run like a running back and can throw like a quarterback,” Reid said. “You have to make sure you cover those areas. That’s hard to replicate out at practice, but you do the best you can and go with it. He’s unique.”

Reid counts himself a longtime admirer of Jackson. He called him the “best player in college football” and made a point of saying teams should give him a chance as a quarterback.

“Don’t slight him as a thrower at all,” Reid said. “I made that statement to you at the combine. Give him a shot at quarterback, he's pretty good at that. I will stand by that. He's a unique player.”

Jackson proved Reid correct during Baltimore's current three-game winning streak. The Ravens have averaged 239 yards rushing per game the last three weeks, with Jackson completing 39-of-65 passing for 453 yards.

Flacco returned to practice this week after sitting out the past three games with a hip injury. Now the Ravens can return to the quarterback rotation if they wish, which can cause additional strain on opposing defenses.

“You just have to make sure you cover the bases on it,” Reid said. “Is it a challenge? Most teams don’t do both. You just get yourself ready to do it and go from there.”

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh solidified a winning formula in recent weeks using his team's suffocating defense in harassing opposing quarterbacks while using a ball-control offense that plays keep away. Baltimore held possession for nearly 40 minutes in last week's 26-16 win against Atlanta.

“It’d be very helpful if we could do that, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “They can score in a variety of ways very quickly, so time of possession would be very helpful for us.”

The Chiefs enter their first full week knowing they won't have Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt. Harbaugh expects Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to stay the course with an offense averaging 37 points per game while finding creative ways utilizing lead running back Spencer Ware.

“He's a heck of a physical guy, downhill guy, but that's not something they hadn't been enjoying before,” Harbaugh said. “I don't expect anything dramatically new. But I say it in terms of who's playing running back, you always expect something new from Andy and from their game plans from Eric and the guys and they usually come up something pretty creative.”

With Hunt gone, the Chiefs expect to lean even more on quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who sits on the brink of reaching the 4,000-yard passing mark this weekend. He enters the game with 3,923 yards and 41 touchdown. With 77 more passing yards, he joins Dan Marino and Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to pull of that feat in their first or second season in the league.

Mahomes has impressed Reid with his ability to pick up blitzes, a skill required for any quarterback facing the Ravens defense.

“He will have a nice test this week with what they give him,” Reid said. “That is one of the tougher things to do with all the different protections you have. Calculating in that split second, diagnosing it, then making things happen.”

The Ravens hold the distinction of having never lost at Arrowhead Stadium in three trips, including a 30-7 Wild Card playoff victory in January 2011. Harbaugh said Arrowhead remains a tough environment for opposing teams, but his solution sounds a lot like the way his team continues playing of late.

“You've got to not turn the ball over, you've got to get a few turnovers if you can, play great defense, be solid on special teams and score some points,” Harbaugh said. “I don't think it's any magic to it, just playing good football like anywhere.