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Cardinals Gird Themselves For Lamar Jackson Experience

Defense knows discipline will be key to slow Ravens' attack

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, left, rushes past Cardinals safety Budda Baker during a game in Baltimore in 2019.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, left, rushes past Cardinals safety Budda Baker during a game in Baltimore in 2019.

Picture this: The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and Cardinals defensive coordinator Nick Rallis jumps out of bed 30 minutes earlier than normal to prepare for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"I slept good, but I didn't set as big of a window to sleep because I knew I had to get in here and make sure that I've used a little bit of extra time to prepare for him," Rallis said this week.

Jackson has the ability to make an opposing team not rest during a game week. On Sunday, the preparation for which Rallis sacrificed his slumber will be put to the test as the Cardinals host the Ravens at State Farm Stadium.

"Lamar Jackson is doing a great job of getting the ball out, whether it's quick game, intermediate throws or even deep throws," safety Budda Baker said. "He's a guy that can also get out of the pocket and in a blink of an eye, he's getting 20 yards."

If you blink too much, it'd be even easier to miss how well he's done passing this season. Entering Week 8, Jackson has put up MVP caliber numbers. He's in the top three in the league in completion percentage (71 percent), passing yards per attempt (8.1), and passer rating (101.9).

He's got targets all around him as well. Baker gave a shoutout to rookie wideout Zay Flowers, and Rallis described tight end Mark Andrews as one of the best in the game.

"(Flowers) is a dynamic player in and out of cuts, reliable target," Rallis said. "Odell (Beckham Jr.), (Nelson) Agholor and (Rashod) Bateman are good players. They're deep in that room with a really good tight end and a quarterback that can dish it."

The Ravens are one of five teams in the league with a top-10 scoring offense and defense. The key word for this game on the defensive side of the ball: Discipline.

"It's huge," coach Jonathan Gannon said. "You've got to play your responsibility because if you don't, (Jackson) will make you play."

The aforementioned skillset to scramble out of the pocket for explosive plays is one of the reasons why discipline is important. The defense can't sit back and wait for Jackson to throw it because he'll break free, but they also can't charge after the quarterback because he can hurt you with his arm.

"The quarterback is more than equipped to get it to them and if we take it away, he's going to take off on his own," Rallis said. "A lot of different things and you have to be ready to stop."

"We know his last resort is to run," Baker said. "We go over the game plan and understand the game plan and each and every play we got to pay attention to the little details and be disciplined on what our job is each and every play."

Rallis has been praised for drawing up many different schemes that have confused an opposing offense. Linebacker Kyzir White knows that component of the defense, mixed in with the discipline, will help on Sunday.

"For all 11, we've got to get to the ball," White said. "We got to play fast and try to disguise and make looks hard for him.

"We haven't seen a quarterback like Lamar Jackson yet, and we want to go out there on Sunday and show him a defense he hasn't seen yet."

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