Go on social media and you wont have any trouble finding folks who doubt Lamar Jacksons throwing ability. Every miss, every waggle in his spiral and theyll emphatically point to it as evidence.
Jacksons development as a thrower is one of the biggest storylines of the Ravens offseason. The general consensus after Thursday's practice open to the media was that Jackson had a pretty strong day. He completed a bunch of passes at every level, had nice zip on his throws and found running back Gus Edwards in a tight window for a "game-winning" touchdown at the end of practice.
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But when asked afterwards to evaluate his performance in his first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Jackson didnt pull any punches.
Id say my first day, I sucked, Jackson said. Second day, I did better. Today was alright, but it could have been better. I always try to be perfect in practice. It was alright for the first week.
Jackson admitted as much when he spoke to reporters on Thursday and said that he needs “to focus on everything” as long as the offense remains a work in progress. Jackson believes that it is very much a work in progress right now.
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Jackson has put in the work this offseason, training in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla. with his high school coach. He said he threw every Monday-Friday, working to improve his mechanics and accuracy. Now that the Ravens have reached OTAs, Baltimores coaches have begun their work on tightening up his fundamentals, which everyone expects to help his completion percentage.
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Jacksons 58.2 completion rate last year was 30th in the league – still ahead of fellow rookies Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. If Jackson can get that higher and add it to his already one-of-a-kind running threat, it would make Baltimores offense that much more dangerous.
I see my hip is firing. Coach always wants me to, Fire my hip! Fire my hip! Jackson said. Keeping a wide base, thats been showing up a lot on film. But Ive got to get that spiral tighter.
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While theres improvement, its not nearly enough to make Jackson happy. One thing hes particularly frustrated with is that hes not throwing tight enough spirals. Theres been too much wobble.
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Its my hand placement, Jackson said. I feel like my hand will be a little too high on the football sometimes. That will make the ball go out of whack.
The Ravens have added speed to their wide receiver corps, particularly with the addition of Brown. However, there remains a place for physical wide receivers in the offense being installed by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. Harbaugh alluded to that during the NFL Owners Meetings when he said, Youre not going to be a certain type of wide receiver and want to come play in Baltimore. We have not received phone calls from some guys. Thats OK. I dont want to hear from those guys. We want rough guys. We want tough guys.
Its only May and the start of OTAs. The Ravens dont suit up for a regular-season game until Sept. 8, so Jackson doesnt have to be a finished product yet. The entire point of practice is to improve, and there is a lot of time for Jackson to have better days.
I need to focus on everything, Jackson said. Im bad at everything right now until were where we should be.
That drive to get better is one reason the Ravens have faith in their second-year quarterback. Veteran running back Mark Ingram said its clear that Jackson wants to be great by the way he works and competes.
Jackson may never throw like Drew Brees, who Ingram played with in New Orleans, but if Jackson becomes efficient and effective in his own way, he can be extremely successful.
Man, he can throw it, Ingram said of Jackson. Ive seen him make a lot of tight throws in tight windows. Ive seen him make some deep throws. Ive seen him go through his progressions, make check-downs, see guys in second windows in zones. Hes making his reads, hes getting better.
Of course, there are going to be times where he might throw something he wants to have back, but thats part of growing and maturing as a young quarterback. I played with Drew Brees eight years and there are throws he wishes he had back. … Im glad [Jackson is] the quarterback of our team and were all behind him.
The Baltimore Ravens spent a lot of time this offseason talking about revamping their offense. From discussions around taking more shots at wide receivers to completely rebuilding the offense from the ground up, the focus was on improving what has been a rather anemic offense.
But apparently no one told quarterback Lamar Jackson about it. Following the third day of OTAs for the Ravens, Jackson told reporters he learned the team had installed a new offense when he got back to Baltimore.
While Jackson has spent the offseason working on his mechanics in Florida, Baltimore has been investing quite a bit of time on creating a scheme that benefits their passer.
The Ravens relieved offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg of his duties shortly following their wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, promoting Greg Roman to the role. In several interviews following that, Roman talked about how he was rebuilding the offense completely instead of trying to retrofit things to an existing system.
It’s what Baltimore really needed to do in order to maximize Jackson’s talents and take a step forward into a more modern style of offense. However, the idea no one informed the guy that’ll be touching the ball on every play is alarming.
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“Coming in, I didn’t know we would have a totally new offense,” Jackson told reporters.
While the NFL has strict rules about teams contacting their players in the offseason, it’s beyond rare to see a starting quarterback not know about those changes by OTAs. It would be one thing if Jackson didn’t have access to the playbook beforehand, but not knowing the offense was going to change at all puts everyone behind the 8-ball.
The Ravens only have 10 OTA practices before mandatory minicamp begins on June 11 and training camp begins in July. With Baltimore’s first preseason game coming on Aug. 8, that doesn’t leave them much time to completely install a new offense to all of their players. Considering Jackson had spent the offseason working on his mechanics to become a better passer, throwing a whole new playbook at him suddenly isn’t going to do his development any favors. Jackson would continue by saying learning a new offense has “been getting to me a little bit.”
Hopefully, the Ravens can get Jackson and the rest of the offense up to speed quickly. But the reality is, Baltimore might not have their full offensive playbook truly installed by the time the regular season begins. For an offense looking to completely change themselves overnight, that’s not a great way to start.