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NY Post
New York Post
6 Jan 2024

NextImg:The Post’s 2023 NFL Awards: ‘Totally different’ Lamar Jackson hit next level

The annual NFL Serby Says Awards were finalized with exhaustive work by our crack staff and assistance from indefatigable NFL Network analyst Brian “Baldy’s Breakdowns” Baldinger.

The envelope, please:

Lamar Jackson (QB, Ravens)

Over Dak Prescott (Cowboys). Jackson is making the game look so easy when it matters. The new offense agrees with him, even after losing TE Mark Andrews and integrating rookie Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. This Lamar versus 2019 MVP Lamar?

“His passing game is totally different,” Baldinger said. “The ball goes exactly where he wants it to go. There’s nothing he can’t do. He can stay in the pocket and carve you up, he can freelance a little bit like he did last week when he rolled out to his left like he was left-handed and then he switched to his right hand and threw the ball 75 yards to Zay Flowers.

Lamar Jackson has made operating the Ravens’ offense look simple this season. AP

“I think he’s the most difficult player in the league to defend. Four years ago, I think he was just a difficult guy to defend from the standpoint he could take off and run. But he doesn’t need to go that now. Now he’s a really complete player.”

Christian McCaffrey (RB, 49ers)

Over Tyreek Hill (WR, Dolphins). McCaffrey could have played in any era. Still just 1,297 career rushing attempts. Probably two more elite years left.

“Johnny Unitas could have handed off to him, he could have played the role of Jimmy Orr or anybody,” Baldinger said. “He could be a Pro Bowl wide receiver if he wanted to just play wide receiver. He runs between the tackles, is effective as anybody outside of maybe Nick Chubb if he was healthy. You can do formations, things that nobody else does, and he gets isolated on linebackers, nobody has a chance. There’s nothing he doesn’t do great.”

Micah Parsons (LB, Cowboys)

Over Myles Garrett (DE, Browns) and Maxx Crosby (Edge, Raiders).

“Micah [13 sacks] is just so different than everybody else,” Baldinger said, “just the way he can pressure quarterbacks from any position, where they move around. … Even when he’s not getting sacks … he’s just everywhere. I feel like the quarterbacks are more affected by him than anybody else.”

Micah Parsons has recorded 13 sacks for the Cowboys entering Sunday’s game. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

C.J. Stroud (QB, Texans)

He has 21 touchdowns, five interceptions and resurrected a franchise. Missing two games allowed Rams WR Puka Nacua to make it close.

“His processing is so urgent but without panicking,” Baldinger said of Stroud. “Pinpoint accuracy, decision-making and then his ability just to read defenses on the move.”

Jalen Carter (DT, Eagles)

The Eagles will miss Fletcher Cox when he’s gone, but not as much as they would have if this Georgia Bulldog (six sacks) hadn’t fallen in their laps following character concerns.

“I think he could be better than Quinnen Williams. I think he could be better than Dexter Lawrence,” Baldinger said. “He has incredible balance, and he has incredible power. Now I know Quinnen does too, and so does Dexter. He’s further along than either one of those guys in their careers. He has a chance for double-digit sacks like Chris Jones and those guys, Aaron Donald, for the next 10 years.”

Kevin Stefanski (Browns)

Believeland is back, and this guy did it after losing RB Nick Chubb (knee) in Week 2 and playing with four different quarterbacks, the most recent Joe Flacco. Overtook Dan Campbell (Lions), Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) DeMeco Ryans (Texans) and Shane Steichen (Colts).

Kevin Stefanski’s Browns made the playoffs despite using four different quarterbacks this season. AP

Brian Flores (DC, Vikings)

“Through all the quarterback changes and all the stuff they had, the defense kept them in it,” Baldinger said. Over Bobby Slowik (OC, Texans), Todd Monken (OC, Ravens), Dan Quinn (DC, Cowboys), Mike Macdonald (DC, Ravens), Frank Smith (OC, Dolphins), Steve Wilks (DC, 49ers), Ben Johnson (OC, Lions).

Stan Kroenke (Rams)

“There’s not a lot of owners that would have said, ‘Just go trade my No. 1 picks, I don’t care,’ ” Baldinger said. “He’s let [GM] Les Snead and [coach] Sean McVay do whatever they want, and here they are in the playoffs. I think he’s pretty special.”

David Tepper (Panthers)

Some people apparently get their jollies screaming “You’re fired!” Drinks are not on him, they’re on you.

Joe Flacco (QB, Browns)

A physically strong, 39-year-old alpha male marvel who never stopped believing. “He looks pretty spry right now,” Baldinger said. “They’ve got a real chance in the playoffs with him.”

Damar Hamlin (S, Bills)

Made just two tackles, but does anyone care? He made it all the way back from cardiac arrest. God bless him.

Joe Flacco (Browns)

Still wacko for Flacco after all these years. Over Jake Browning (Bengals) and Gardner Minshew (Colts).

Joe Flacco has gone 4-1 with the Browns since taking over as their starting quarterback. Getty Images

Nick Caserio (Texans)

Over Brad Holmes (Lions). Caserio teamed the right rookie quarterback (Stroud) with the right rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans) — and DE Will Anderson and WRs Nico Collins and Tank Dell look like home runs.

Jessie Bates III (FS, Falcons)

Savvy playmaker (128 tackles, six INTs, three forced fumbles, four-year, $64 million contract). “Bates has been everything you would want in the back end of that defense,” Baldinger said. Over DT Javon Hargrave (49ers).

Allen Lazard (WR, Jets)

The bang (23-for-311, one TD) was nowhere worth the bucks (four for $44M). Good guy who will undoubtedly be better with Aaron Rodgers, but as the No. 3 receiver.

Aaron Rodgers (QB, Jets)

Played out like an episode of “As Aaron’s World Turns.” A future first-ballot Hall of Famer’s inspirational fight to be a medical marvel. Jimmy Kimmel has no comment.

Aaron Rodgers tore his ACL just four offensive snaps into the Jets’ season, but he still remained a prominent storyline. Charles Wenzelberg

Tylan Wallace (Ravens)

A 76-yard punt return against the Rams by a nose over Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard punt return to beat the Bills the night Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles.

Kadarius Toney (WR, Chiefs)

Described from the Li’l Abner comic strip as “the world’s worst jinx, instantaneous bad luck befell anyone unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity. Joe was always shown with a dark rain cloud over his head.” He’ll line up offsides if they let him.

Tommy DeVito (QB, Giants)

Tommy Cutlets, the hand gesture. Mangia everybody, mangia.

Tommy DeVito celebrates with Isaiah Hodgins following a Giants touchdown earlier this season. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas (Jets)

Winning isn’t everything. And it isn’t the only thing.

Taylor (Team Kelce)

Over D’Andre (Eagles). Time’s 2023 Person of the Year is the tiebreaker.