The New England Patriots will have their hands full trying to slow down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson this Sunday, but the matchup serves as a reminder for what could have been.
Before the Ravens selected their quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson took a visit to Gillette Stadium on an official visit with the Patriots. It was a visit that Bill Belichick recalled as “great” when asked about it on Wednesday.
“Spent a lot of time with him,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday. “Really interesting guy.”
As for Jackson, he remembers seeing a surprising side of the Patriots head coach.
“I see Belichick smile,” Jackson told reporters in Baltimore. “Usually I see him and he’s poker face, straight face guy. When I saw him smile, I was like ‘Dang, you’ve got humor.’ I told him that. He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be smiling.’”
"I wasn't expecting you to be smiling!" @Lj_era8 on his pre-draft meeting with Bill Belichick pic.twitter.com/S3TQyZOxKi— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 21, 2022
Despite holding the 23rd and 31st overall picks in the 2018 Draft, the Patriots opted not to take the elusive quarterback. Instead, they added offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel to surround 41-year old Tom Brady. Baltimore then traded up to 32nd overall to select their future quarterback.
While Jackson would have provided the Patriots with an obvious succession plan to Brady, Michel helped New England take home the 2018 Super Bowl. The rookie back ran for 336 yards and scored six touchdowns in three playoff games, including the only touchdown in Super Bowl LIII.
Meanwhile, Jackson played just seven games as a rookie, but took over the league next season. In his first full year as a starter, the second-year quarterback took home the NFL’s Most Valuable Player honors, pilling up over 4,000 total yards and 43 touchdowns.
Since his MVP campaign, Jackson has proved to be one of the toughest matchups in the league. While his rushing ability has never been questioned, Belichick noted his work as a pocket passer has improved.
“Without a doubt,” Belichick said. “It’s the type of the player that’s a MVP type of candidate. I think he’s more than answered them. But, we’ll see what his contract is, that will answer them.”
In their meetings on the actual football field, Jackson’s Ravens and Belichick’s Patriots have split two matchups. Both sides will look to gain the upper hand on Sunday as the Ravens visit Gillette Stadium.