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Bears Bracing for Speed, Athleticism of Lamar Jackson

Jackson 25-2 against first-time opponents.

OWINGS MILLS, Md.— Teams game plan for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson by using their fastest player to serve as the quarterback on their scout teams.

However, once the actual game starts, opponents have a difficult time adjusting to Jackson's speed and athleticism.

That's the challenge facing the Chicago Bears when they face Jackson for the first time in the regular season on Sunday. 

"It obviously starts and ends with him," coach Matt Nagy told the media this week "He is special. He's such a competitor. He's different. He's unique in how he plays the game. He's tough. He can throw the football all over the field.

"What they do offensively is great. They do a great job schematically. It's a credit to them. He's a stressor for sure. We've got to know where he's at on every single play. He can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with his arm and he can beat you with his mentality."

Jackson is 25-2 when facing a team for the first time, including the postseason. Only the Chiefs in the 2018 regular season and the Titans in the 2019 playoffs earned wins over Jackson in their first meetings.

Jackson did play against the Bears in the Hall-of-Fame game as a rookie in 2018. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 33 yards with a touchdown and interception in the Ravens 17-16 victory.

This year, Jackson has carried the Ravens offense and he is No. 2 in ESPN's latest NFL MVP rankings behind Tom Brady. 

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Jackson ranks eighth in the NFL with 2,447 yards passing with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jackson also ranked seventh among all players with 639 yards rushing with another two scores. 

Baltimore is 36-10 with Jackson as its regular-season starter. 

Chicago will have to perform without two of its top defenders.

Khalil Mack (6 sacks) is out for the year with a foot injury. Defensive end Akiem Hicks has also been ruled out. 

The Bears have suffered losses this season to Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Tom Brady (Buccaneers), and Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers).

They're hoping for more success against Jackson. 

"He's, naturally, probably the best athlete on the field," safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. said. "His athleticism jumps out. That scares a lot of teams. He can make every throw but at the same time can bust a 90-yard run on you, make your whole defense look silly … You're witnessing a premier athlete at the quarterback position that we've never seen before."