ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The question comes up every time Lamar Jackson shows up on the schedule.
Who will simulate him in practice? Josh Johnson? Jackson is more like Josh Jacobs in the open field. Brett Rypien? Jackson throws more like Brett Favre.
"I am not like Lamar Jackson, that's for sure," said Rypien with a smile.
There's no easy way to portray Jackson for the Broncos in practice. He is a Madden character come to life, a human joystick of darts, bursts and improvisation.
"He’s like someone you would create — 99 speed, 99 arm strength," Rypien said. "The guy is insane.”
Thus, having a normal quarterback play him on the practice squad is like asking a karaoke singer to belt out Mariah Carey tunes.
“You can’t imitate that. Being around him, he’s a very special player, a very special talent," said Broncos practice squad quarterback Johnson, who played for the Ravens last season. "I just try to resemble it as much as I can for the defense to get ready."
Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero compared facing Jackson to squaring off against an option attack in college. You don't see it much, and it tests your discipline more than a chocolate chip cookie before dinner.
Jackson boasts 755 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Melvin Gordon (no longer with the team), Latavius Murray and Javonte Williams have combined for 823 yards and five scores for the Broncos this season.
"You can’t replicate a guy like that," Rypien said. "We tried last year, and had some receivers come out and do some zone read. The problem is when you do that, you take away the threat to throw and he can do that really well, too.”
Jackson has thrown for 17 touchdowns — more than double Russell Wilson's eight — and is not afraid to look deep.
“I think the best thing to say is that he’s a modern-day Michael Vick, honestly. He can do it all. He can make plays with his legs almost like a RB. He can throw down the ball the field well," said Broncos linebacker Baron Browning, whose favorite player growing up was Vick because of his skill in the Madden video game. "The biggest thing is not letting him get outside the pocket and create those explosive plays."
Jackson also enters this game hurt and angry. He left Wednesday's practice with a quad injury, and after last Sunday's loss to Jacksonville fired off an inappropriate tweet to a critic. So his motivation to bounce back against the Broncos is as clear as his angst.
"Lamar hates to lose. We all hate to lose, and we hate to not execute, and we all hate to not score touchdowns in the red zone. So, if that’s frustration, sure. I don’t mind that kind of frustration; I want us to be frustrated with that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I want a bunch of guys who want to win, a bunch of guys who want to execute, who want to get out there and make sure that we look like we know what we’re doing, and to be putting points on people, and be getting stops and all those kinds of things. So, that’s the last thing I’m worried about."
Jackson owns success against the Broncos. Last season, Denver used a mush rush against him, where the outside linebackers get to his depth and stop, a plan designed to keep him in the pocket. It limited his run game — 28 yards — but he blistered Denver for 22 completions and 316 yards through the air in a win.
"We know what type of game it is. We have to come in and we have to stop the run. It makes it that much harder when you have a quarterback that can create explosive runs in the run game, as well. That’s not mentioning the drop back pass, where if the passes aren’t there and our rush lanes aren’t good enough, he could easily get out of there, too. It’s going to take all 11 of us," safety Justin Simmons said.
"I always talk about how when you play teams like this, as talented as the Ravens are, it’s almost like approaching the triple option. Guys have to be locked in and gap sound through every facet of your defense. If you’re not, it only takes those one or two plays of curiosity where they can break a long, explosive run. As a defense, we have to stay on top of it."
Hamler suffers setback
Receiver K.J. Hamler is possibly lost for the season after suffering a setback with his hamstring injury on Wednesday. He hurt his leg in the first practice after the bye week and was hoping to play this Sunday. Hamler has seven catches for 165 yards in seven games this season.