NFL

Broncos’ first test is first look at Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson

Sometimes, mayhem can be poetry in motion.

In Week 1, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson faced a third-and-6 from the Las Vegas 10-yard line. The Raiders rushed four against the Ravens’ five-man protection.

Commence chaos …

1.93 seconds: Jackson takes one step up in the pocket to avoid defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson.

2.94: He moves three yards back to buy time/space from converging rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue.

3.84: A jab step and shoulder dip helps him avoid Crosby/Ngakoue.

5.80: He scrambles right and pump-fakes toward receiver Devin Duvernay at the goal-line.

6.71: He looks to Duvernay and running back Ty’Son Williams (back right corner of end zone).

7.51: Out of nowhere he finds receiver Marquise Brown in the back of the end zone, who caught Jackson’s touchdown pass.

Multiple times, the Raiders, who eventually won in overtime, thought they had Jackson hemmed in only to see him escape for big plays passing and running.

Have fun, Broncos.

“He’s not like your typical quarterback, but he still gets the same type of production just like all of the other guys,” outside linebacker Von Miller said.

In his fourth season, Jackson, who missed two days of practice this past week with back tightness, faces the Broncos (3-0) for the first time Sunday. Minus any significant in-person recall to lean on, coaches and players have dug into the video to equal parts develop a sound plan and jaw-drop at his ability.

“He’s one of a kind, thank God,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.

Jackson is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (251) and completions of at least 20 yards (14), and, according to the league’s Next Gen Stats, leads all passers in “air” yards per pass attempt (12.3) and per completion (9.1). He makes big plays, period.

“A dynamic guy,” Broncos defensive backs coach Christian Parker told The Denver Post. “When a lot of guys scramble, they don’t have the threat of going 80 yards. And he’s an extremely capable passer who throws the deep ball very well so that brings a different dimension.”

Menu of problems

The 32nd overall draft pick in 2018, Jackson took over in Week 11 of his rookie season for an injured Joe Flacco. Wins and touchdowns followed. Since his first start, Jackson leads all quarterbacks in wins (32) and his 2019 tour de force MVP season featured the single-season rushing record for a quarterback (1,206 yards) and franchise records in touchdown passes (36) and passer rating (113.3).

The Broncos looked at what Las Vegas and Detroit did well in Weeks 1 and 3 to total seven sacks and six other knockdowns of Jackson and what Kansas City didn’t do well in Week 2 when he rushed for 107 yards.

Jackson presents myriad issues.

Rush four? That would be in Fangio’s wheelhouse, allowing him to drop seven defenders. The Lions rushed four or fewer on 35 of Jackson’s 40 drop-backs and still created pressure.

A four-man rush plan puts the onus on Miller, who has discovered the fountain of NFL middle age with four sacks in the first three games.

“Maxx Crosby had a hell of a game rushing the passer (two sacks and three knockdowns) and playing the run (four tackles) and I feel like I can do it, too,” Miller said.

Play exclusively zone coverage? That would allow the back seven to keep an eye on Jackson, but could compromise their ability to cover downfield.

“You have to be sound in both (zone and man); you can’t play one thing because (Jackson) can throw the ball and pick you apart,” Parker said. “They run the ball and attack you downfield — that’s a big recipe for them because they get you to come up to the line and put all of your resources toward the run and then hit you over the top. They’re not passing it to be ‘West Coast’ dink and dunk. They’re trying to stretch you.”

Employ a spy to track Jackson? In theory, it makes sense, but not so much at the cost of taking an 11th defender out of the picture just so he can monitor Jackson. One problem:

The Broncos could use their dime (sixth defensive back) player, safety Caden Sterns, to monitor Jackson, but if the Ravens use a fullback or two tight ends, that may not be feasible because it would leave the defense susceptible to the run. Another problem: Jackson has the athleticism to evade a spy.

It is a full menu of problems.

“He’s a complete quarterback,” Fangio said.

Disciplined required

When the Broncos’ secondary gathered Wednesday, Parker showed a tape of Jackson’s scrambles and how, while he created time, his targets knew exactly how to run parallel of him to get “uncovered.”

Jackson isn’t like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes or Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who mostly scramble laterally to buy time. But he isn’t somebody who is looking to run exclusively after escaping the pocket.

A breakdown of his passes by The Post reveals the Ravens’ quick-developing routes and Jackson’s patience.

Less than 2.01 seconds — 10 of 11.

2.01-3.00 — 19 of 39 (two touchdowns and interceptions apiece). Against Kansas City, he threw a jump pass for a 42-yard touchdown.

3.01-4.00 — 18 of 24.

4.01-5.00 — 3 of 6 (one interception). He extended a fourth-and-19 play for 4.94 seconds to complete a 36-yard pass to set up kicker Justin Tucker’s record-setting 66-yard field goal as time expired.

More than 5.00 — 3 of 5 (one touchdown — the aforementioned play at Las Vegas). Detroit finally sacked him in 8.63 seconds.

Translation: All-around, on-point awareness will be required by the Broncos. The cornerbacks can’t wander off their assignment to chase Jackson and the outside linebackers can’t freelance and lose contain.

“We need to be extremely disciplined,” Parker said. “He gets out and it can turn into backyard football really quickly so you try and take away the first play and his initial reads and then you have to play the second, third plays (within the play). Once he gets outside the pocket, we need to plaster to your man and protect deep-to-short and maintain vertical control.”

Said outside linebackers coach John Pagano: “It’s a week you need to be sound in your rush lanes and have a great understanding of how you’re fitting the play because they have so many different looks.”

Within one snap, Play 1 could be Jackson looking long for Brown. Play 2 could be finding Andrews as he crosses the field. And Play 3 could be chasing Jackson.

Times that by 65 snaps and it will be a taxing assignment, but Sunday is what this Broncos defense was built for — stop the run (defensive line), get sacks (edge rushers) and prevent Brown and Andrews from going nuts (linebackers and secondary).

“It’s almost like Barry Sanders is playing quarterback,” said Fangio, citing the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. “We’ll try our best.”

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