The Baltimore Ravens invested big at the quarterback position last year when they used a first-round selection on Lamar Jackson—even if it was their second selection of the round, and came with the 32nd-overall pick. But he started eight total games last year and he impressed them enough that they traded their other starting option, so it’s all in on Jackson for 2019 and beyond.
And Jackson himself isn’t exactly thrilled with how his 2019 offseason is beginning. He told reporters coming out of the team’s first OTA session that he “sucked”, though he allowed that he did somewhat better the following day, and ultimately was “alright” on the final OTA session of the week, “but it could have been better”.
“I always try to be perfect in practice”, he said. “It was alright for the first week”.
Now did Jackson say anything wrong? Certainly not. In fact, perhaps you would want to hear your young starter entering his first season full-time taking on that role saying that he thought he sucked and that there are so many things he needs to do better. Self-criticism, if channeled responsibly, can be the most powerful motivator of all.
He did point to some evolutions in his throwing motion, saying that he is firing his hip better into the throw, but his hand placement still needs to improve. He fumbled a worrying number of times last season, both as a thrower and a runner.
Nevertheless, the Ravens have still spoken very openly about their offense being geared toward running the ball this year. The pendulum already swung heavily in that direction last season in the seven games that he started in the regular season. I think they averaged over 200 rushing yards per game.
And he was a part of that himself. He set a quarterback record for the most rushing attempts in an entire season even though he was a bit player for most of it, which is astonishing. Even if they scale back his rushing attempts, he could still break his own record simply because he will be, presumably, starting nine more games than he did last year in the regular season.
Even when they were discussing their plans at the wide receiver position in free agency, they talked about valuing their ability to block highly. During and after the draft, they talked about the uniqueness of their offense and how that contributes to them having people on their board that perhaps no other team would.
It just seems so weird to be having this discussion surrounding a first-round quarterback that they’re seemingly not expecting to be able to win them many games with his arm. It worked well last year—they went 6-1, propelling them to a surprising postseason berth—but the tape on Jackson is out there now, and he won’t be sneaking up on anybody.
It almost seems as though he not only has to prove his opponents wrong about his ability to be a quarterback—he has to prove his own coaches wrong, too. Most other first-round quarterbacks would have been handed the reins and been allowed to sling it around by now.