EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wink Martindale coached in Baltimore for 10 years, the last four as defensive coordinator when the Ravens deployed the three players he considers critical to their winning formula.
"Their success comes from Lamar Jackson's legs, Mark Andrews' hands and Justin Tucker's foot," Martindale said this week. "That's how they win games. They know it, and they play well to it."
The Giants tomorrow must contend with all the Ravens, who are 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North. Baltimore is coached by John Harbaugh, who is "like a brother" to Martindale and has led his team to the playoffs in nine of his first 14 seasons, including a Super Bowl victory in 2012.
The Ravens have impressive talent in every position group, but in Martindale's estimation Jackson, Andrews and Tucker form their indispensable trio.
Jackson, arguably the NFL's best dual-threat quarterback, was a first-round draft choice in 2018, the year before he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. In 63 regular-season games, he has thrown 96 touchdown passes and only 36 interceptions, rushed for 4,407 yards and 23 touchdowns and compiled a .714 winning percentage, placing him behind only Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts.
This season, Jackson has tossed 12 touchdown passes and scored twice on the ground while leading the Ravens with 374 rushing yards and a 7.6-yard per-carry average.
"You have to be cautious with everything with this guy," Giants coach Brian Daboll said. "The play is never over. He can be in one spot and quickly be in another spot. He can choose to pull up and throw it, run. I think it's going to take all 11 guys – the interior guys, the edge guys, the backers. He's a tough player, tough quarterback to defend. … He'll take his drop and if he needs to step up, he steps up and if he has to escape, he escapes. He's a very unique player in this league. Like I said before, he's a lot of fun to watch because he's such a talented player and he's a winner."
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Martindale faced Jackson in practice for four years and left Baltimore as one of his biggest fans.
"I love Lamar," he said. "The guy is a winner, and when the game's on the line, it's going to be in his hand.
"He's bigger than a lot of those dual-threat quarterbacks. And he looks bigger and stronger to me this year than he has. He's an unreal talent. He's like Lebron James. If you say, 'I'm going to lay back and make him shoot,' he'll make threes all day. If you go up and play defense in his face, then he's going to go by you and dunk on you. It'll be on a poster. That's the way I see it."
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson said, "That's pretty much for real. When you have a guy that can throw the ball as good as he does and run the ball as good as he does, you just got to do your assignment and try to execute it at a high level."
The Giants' defensive backs know preventing Jackson from making big plays is a substantial challenge.
"(He's) electric," said safety Xavier McKinney, who faced Jackson in Baltimore in 2020. "Makes the plays down the field, passing the ball. Makes the plays on his feet. He's a guy that's definitely another dynamic quarterback that's going to be a challenge for us defensively. It's going to be fun to play against him again."
"It's like the movie Any Given Sunday – you never know what might happen," Jackson said. "With a guy as dynamic as he is with his feet and with his arm, you really just have to do your assignment and worry about doing your job. You understand that if you do that and your brothers do their job, you just go from there."
The players in the secondary must cover the receivers while remaining ready for a Jackson run.
"If my eyes are on the backfield looking at him, I'm going to lose my coverage," defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said. "So, it's peek and then go back. Take a snapshot; don't take a video is the thought for us."
When Jackson releases the ball, Martindale has a good idea where it's most likely headed, to Andrews.
A third-round selection in that 2018 draft, Andrews was a first-year All-Pro in 2021 when he set franchise records with 107 catches and 1,361 yards while scoring nine touchdowns. His 1,710 receiving yards since the start of the 2021 season are the most for an NFL tight end. This year, Andrews' 32 receptions are 15 more than anyone else on the team and he leads Baltimore with four touchdowns.
Even if Jackson and Andrews don't get the ball into the end zone, the Ravens have a good chance of scoring because Tucker is perhaps the best kicker in NFL history. The five-time first-team All-Pro has made 91.3% of his regular-season field goal attempts (335 of 367), has converted 75 straight in the second half and overtime and 61 in a row in the fourth quarter and overtime, both NFL records, and has succeeded on 10 straight tries from 50+ yards.
"Justin Tucker is amazing," Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. "He was a three-way guy in college at Texas, and he did everything. And just the transformation that he made from being a punter and a kicker in college and just seeing him grow throughout his career, the guy's amazing. The stuff that he can do, the stuff that he does is just like unlike any other kicker that we've seen in our era. He's a different animal that way. Very special talent."
Martindale said if the game is close and the Ravens have the ball, his calls must take Tucker's leg strength into account.
"If they cross the 50, he's got a shot," Martindale said. "Last year, he hit (an NFL-record) 66-yarder in Detroit. It was unbelievable. You've got to make good situational calls, especially at the end of the game."
The Giants will do everything they can to minimize the influence of Jackson, Andrews and Tucker have on the game.
*On Sunday, October 16, the Giants will be celebrating Latino Heritage Month in partnership with Ford and supported by Dunkin' and PNC Private Bank. Fans will be welcomed with several plaza festivities, including: Sampling of Latin cuisine, live DJ, Latin style dance exhibition, Super Bowl trophy on display (weather permitting), and more. The festivities will be hosted by HOT 97's Laura Stylez and will take place on the plaza between MetLife and Verizon gates.
For more details, visit: Giants.com/Los-Gigantes