Five weeks into the NFL season, we still have a small sample, but it's enough to look at some early trends. Some things in the NFL are just as we expected, but other metrics have given us surprising results so far in 2020.
Below, we'll look at a surprising stat for each of the AFC teams, using a mix of numbers from Football Outsiders and ESPN Stats & Information, as well as what that stat might tell us about that team going forward. (Click here for last week's examination of the 16 NFC teams.)
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson running
Lamar Jackson is running less than he did in his MVP season, and more importantly, he's running with less success.
In 2019, Football Outsiders calculated Jackson to have 273 rushing DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement, explained here). That was the second-most valuable quarterback rushing season in our data, going back to 1985, surpassed only by Randall Cunningham's 1990 season. This year, on the other hand, Jackson has negative DYAR. He currently ranks 29th among quarterbacks in rushing value.
Jackson has run only 7.4 times per game, compared to 10.4 carries per game last season. That's exacerbated by a recent knee injury that held Jackson out of some practices and limited him to two carries against Cincinnati in Week 5. But the injury isn't the reason for the lack of success in Weeks 1-4, and Jackson's success rate has dropped on every down:
Will this drop in Jackson's rushing efficiency continue? In part, it depends on the status of his knee, obviously. In addition, it's hard to have a performance as good as Jackson had last year while rushing as often as he did. The most likely scenario for the rest of 2020 is a performance that falls somewhere between Jackson's slow rushing start and last year's huge numbers.