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Lamar Jackson will start for the Ravens, and the Falcons will have to be ready

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Atlanta has not had to face a quarterback who can run like Jackson, and that suggests problems.

Oakland Raiders v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Ravens made it official, probably earlier than John Harbaugh would have liked, when they announced Tuesday that Lamar Jackson would be the starter. He’s since walked that back a little bit, saying that both Jackson and Joe Flacco may play, but that feels like more of an attempt to keep the Falcons on their toes than anything else.

The reality is that this is now Lamar Jackson’s job, and he’ll have to play poorly to lose it temporarily. Sometime in the next year or so, it’ll be his job, period, but for now Harbaugh has Flacco’s injury as a built-in excuse to keep him out of the lineup on Sundays. Jackson has his weaknesses as a passer—he’ll take shots Flacco won’t, and he’s missed defenders to ill effect at least a couple of times—but his game is well-rounded and it’s not a coincidence that the Ravens are winning games with him under center.

So if the Falcons don’t have to worry about more than a handful of snaps for Flacco, which I think is likely, they just have to prepare for Jackson. I said weeks ago that I was concerned about Jackson because he is one of the only legitimate running threats the team has faced at quarterback this year, and they’ve traditionally struggled with that. His live arm makes him plenty dangerous for a shaky pass defense, too.

If you’re wondering what Jackson brings to the table that the Falcons should fear, SB Nation’s Charles McDonald breaks it down effectively here. The Falcons are going to have to figure out in a split second whether Jackson is taking the ball down and running or passing, and they haven’t been particularly great at stopping either of those things even without the element of surprise.

The Falcons have talked all week about ensuring they’re prepared for Jackson, and they simply have no choice but to deliver on that promise if they want their fifth win of the season. Otherwise, they’re going to keep chasing that draft pick, whether they want to or not.