Chatter always seems to center around the latter, but it’s the former that’s landed them in the NFL.
“I know he got a lot of scrutiny [from] people thinking he couldn’t throw,” said Arizona Cardinals rookie Murray of his Baltimore Ravens counterpart Jackson. “Then he goes out there and proves it, so people say things about everybody.”
Throughout the 2019 NFL season, The Undefeated will chronicle the rise of black quarterbacks in the NFL. Read more
When Murray and Jackson stand on opposite sidelines of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox), they’ll be representing the evolution of the dual-threat quarterback. They’re not running quarterbacks. They’re quarterbacks who can run. The distinction is important.
“As a quarterback, when you run, that sometimes gets overhyped and your throwing gets shadowed a little bit,” said Cardinals backup quarterback Brett Hundley, a five-year veteran who ran often in high school and college. “Then you don’t realize how good he’s throwing the ball because you’re seeing him running the ball, where most quarterbacks throw it away or throw the checkdown or something like that.
“We just take off and run. So, it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s a runner.’ But, instead, it’s just we’re doing different things when nothing’s open so I think that’s the biggest difference.”
Hundley would know — he’s backed up the likes of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Russell Wilson in Seattle before supporting Murray in Arizona. He considers all three to be quarterbacks who can run, not the other way around.
So why the labels on Jackson and Murray? Jackson had back-to-back 3,000-yard-passing/1,500-yard-rushing seasons at Louisville, earning him a Heisman Trophy. Murray closed out his collegiate career at Oklahoma with a 4,000-yard-passing/1,000-yard-rushing season that earned him a Heisman. Having success as a runner in college starts the stigma. Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham, among others, were typecast when they arrived in the NFL.
“It’s gone on forever, that’s always been the thought,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “If somebody comes along that proves that wrong, then a lot of people are wrong and people don’t like being wrong. I think that’s where that stands currently.”
Murray and Jackson shined with their arms in Week 1. Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Murray for 308, two touchdowns and an interception. Neither ran a lot — three times each — as Murray gained 13 yards and Jackson six.
After his breakout game on Sunday — a 59-10 blowout of the Miami Dolphins — Jackson quipped to reporters that it was “not bad for a running back,” a clear shot at his critics who thought he wouldn’t make it as a quarterback in the NFL.
“The way he said it was really great,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He was very humble. He kind of said it with a laugh with his eyes kind of down but it’s probably some point he wanted to make for all those out there that want to categorize people in certain ways.”
All those labels have been disappointing to Harbaugh but Jackson has enjoyed the stir created by his comment — one rooted in proving people wrong.
“You could say that,” Jackson said.
Murray knows the feeling. He heard the whispers when he transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma after his freshman season in 2015. The rap on him back then was that he was a short quarterback who couldn’t throw.
“Bad combination,” he said wryly.
Murray “for sure” felt like he had to prove himself, which he did last season at Oklahoma when he threw for 4,361 yards while running for 1,001. He won the Heisman and was the first pick in April’s draft.
His rushing total fueled the chatter pre-draft that he was a running quarterback. Last Sunday began to put that notion to rest and every Sunday to come can reinforce it.
“The biggest thing is understanding that we can throw the damn ball, too,” Hundley said. “Now you see a lot of quarterbacks coming through the pipeline that are both runners and passers.”
Neither Murray nor Jackson will shy away from having the ability to make plays with their feet. And neither will shy away from using them.
“The ability to run is definitely changing the game,” Murray said.
It’s a weapon that can be tough for defenses to scheme against, Harbaugh said.
Cardinals rookie defensive lineman Zach Allen saw that first-hand when he played at Boston College against Jackson at Louisville. The Eagles schemed to prevent Jackson from running during Allen’s junior season. It didn’t matter. Jackson scored two touchdowns on 73 yards rushing while throwing for 354 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re both fast,” Allen said of Jackson and Murray, who he’s faced since rookie minicamp. He called both “elite” passers but said their running skills force defenders to think twice.
“You really have to be on point and focus every play because they can do it in any way,” Allen said. “It just makes our job harder, but also it’s a challenge and it’s a lot of fun. Do you make a conscious effort not to overcommit against guys like that?
“They can run by anybody.”
Still, running as a quarterback in the NFL is a risk. Too much is at stake for any given franchise, especially when quarterbacks are receiving megacontracts. But, not surprisingly, it’s the quarterbacks who think it’s sustainable to run.
Kingsbury? Not so much.
“It isn’t until somebody proves that it is,” he said.
The key, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said, is to be smart.
“It’s getting down, understanding when to get out of bounds, not taking unnecessary hits, especially when you have the football in your hands,” Wilson said.
“It’s one thing to … sit in the pocket and you got to get hit or whatever. That may happen. Those things are going to happen, for sure. But it’s another thing to run. You don’t want to get smacked when you’re running down the field. I think just having the intelligence and understanding when to get down, how to slide, all those things is critical.”
Murray doesn’t like getting hit. Once he gets his yards, he’s planning on getting down.
But there’s a difference between Murray and some other quarterbacks. He doesn’t run unnecessarily, said Cardinals quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. That’s why Clements doesn’t think Murray is similar to Michael Vick, a popular comparison. Clements believes Vick was more keen on running earlier in his career before developing into a better passer.
The better comparison for Murray, Clements said, is Chiefs quarterback and former Kingsbury recruit Patrick Mahomes.
“They’re gonna sit in the pocket and look to throw,” Clements said. “Then, if it breaks down and they have to create something, they can do it.”
Murray wants to “play this game for a long time.” To do that, though, he needs to stay healthy. To stay healthy, he needs to be smart. And it helps that he’s fleet of foot.
“Guys are a lot bigger in the NFL than they were in college, faster and stronger,” he said. “At the same time, I’m fast so I can get away.”
That’s one way to make running work in his favor. But that doesn’t always work, Griffin III said.
“Guys are getting hurt as much outside the pocket as they are inside the pocket,” he said. “Guys are getting demolished inside the pocket. You see those injuries happen a lot. There is no way to really avoid that. But if you’re a guy who is mobile, you have to use that ability.”
Quarterbacks who can run aren’t new to football, Harbaugh said, but they may be faster and more athletic. And they may be able to throw better now, limiting their need to run.
Murray and Jackson are examples of both.
“We’re throwers first,” Hundley said. “We play quarterback. But since we run a lot, we get stigmatized as runners and so sitting back in the pocket and not getting hit, I’m fine with that.”
ESPN NFL reporters Jamison Hensley and Brady Henderson contributed.
Saints DE Noah Spence tears ACL while training away from team
Spence was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list since the injury did not occur as part of New Orleans’ offseason training program — which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. That means he can’t play for the Saints this year and won’t count against their 90-man roster. The NFL Network was the first to report the nature of Spence’s injury.
Situations like this could add another wrinkle to these unusual offseason circumstances. Teams aren’t required to pay salaries in the cases of “non-football” injuries. But they could decide to work out injury settlements or place players on injured reserve when rosters are trimmed in September and continue paying them.
Spence, 26, was scheduled to make $910,000 on a one-year deal if he made the Saints’ 53-man roster. He would have counted $750,000 against their salary cap as part of the veteran minimum salary benefit.
The fifth-year pro originally joined the Saints last December after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins earlier in the 2019 season. He was a healthy inactive for all four games with New Orleans, including the playoffs. But he had a chance to earn a roster spot this year to provide depth behind starters Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
Spence (6-foot-2, 251 pounds) began his career as a second-round draft pick with the Buccaneers in 2016 and had a terrific rookie season with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
His production has tailed off since then, however, in part because of a nagging shoulder injury that limited him to six games in 2017. He had another sack and forced fumble with the Bucs in 2017 and one sack with the Redskins in 2019.
Miami Dolphins to open drive-in theater at Hard Rock Stadium
The Miami Dolphins will soon let fans drive their cars inside the stadium where football players typically play every weekend in the fall.
The Dolphins announced Tuesday that they are launching an outdoor drive-in theater inside Hard Rock Stadium that will be used to show marquee games in team history, classic movies, commencement ceremonies, concerts and more. They are also hosting an open-air theater which can host small groups for an intimate viewing experience in the complex plaza.
The Dolphins have mocked renderings of the drive-in venture, which they say can host up to 230 cars. They are promoting it as a family-friendly event that people can participate in amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Food and beverage can purchased through an online system and delivered to cars. Restrooms will also be made available for use. Fans can put their name on an email list via the stadium website to be notified when tickets are available.
“We’ve spent several weeks planning this to be able to provide people with a safe option to go out and enjoy movies, classic Dolphins content, concerts, and celebrate 2020 graduates,” said Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium vice chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel. “It’s a fundamental human need to physically experience and celebrate events and experiences together, and we’re trying to provide options for everyone where they can be safely socially distant and socially present at the same time.”
Hard Rock Stadium became the first public facility to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR accreditation, the standard used for facilities to implement cleaning, disinfecting and infectious disease prevention work practices to control risks involved with infectious agents like the coronavirus.
Garfinkel and the Dolphins have been proactive and innovative in ways to function during the pandemic. They released mock-up plans earlier this month for what it could like to host approximately 15,000 fans in the stadium for NFL fans if the NFL and the government allows it in the fall. Owner Stephen Ross also said on CNBC Tuesday that there will “definitely” be a football season this fall and the plans as of now is to include having fans in the stands.
Hard Rock Stadium was the host for Super Bowl LIV. It also has hosted Miami Open tennis tournaments, several multiple large music festivals, college football championship games and international soccer games.
Ravens’ Lamar Jackson to host informal workouts for teammates
With the Baltimore Ravens facility unavailable to players due to the coronavirus pandemic, reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is hosting his Baltimore Ravens teammates for some informal workouts in south Florida next week.
Wide receiver Miles Boykin told reporters in a video conference call that he is scheduled to run plays with Jackson, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and others in what is believed to be the team’s largest gathering this offseason.
“We’re still finalizing it,” Boykin said Tuesday. “There are going to be a lot of guys down there. There’s only so much you can do in [virtual] meetings without being able to go out on the field.”
And while the Ravens announced Tuesday that they have re-opened their training facility under Phase 1 of the NFL process, it is still closed to players and coaches. Like many other teams, Baltimore’s offseason training activities would’ve begun by now.
What works in the Ravens’ favor is their continuity and familiarity on offense. Baltimore returns 11 of 13 players who caught a pass from Jackson last season in what was the NFL’s highest-scoring offense (33.2 points per game).
Boykin said there are plans for additional workouts with Jackson beyond next week. Jackson’s recent throwing sessions appear to have been limited to Brown, who also lives in Florida. Based on social media posts, it looks like Jackson and Brown have been working on routes at a local park.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 23, 2020
Boykin isn’t sure of the exact details of the workouts.
“Right now, we just have the plan to go down there and be able to run through some plays on offense and just play football a little bit to get back to something that we love doing,” Boykin said. “It’ll be exciting for us to be together, just work on that chemistry.”
This is the second straight year that Jackson has gotten together with teammates in the offseason, which had been a point of contention with the Ravens’ previous starting quarterback. Joe Flacco only held private workouts twice in his 11 seasons in Baltimore.
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