The Baltimore Ravens made the investment in Lamar Jackson at quarterback last year when they traded back into the first round to pick him up. He started the final seven games of their season in 2018, taking over a 4-5 team and going 6-1, reaching the postseason, though they would lose in the Wildcard Round.
The team knows, however, that they will not have the good fortune to continue to win in the manner in which they did while he was a rookie, when teams had not yet had the opportunity to scout him, so they are adjusting as they go and expecting big improvement. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman adapted the offense to suit Jackson and the running game, but the quarterback has to do his part in improving his throwing.
Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban is working with him this spring on just that task. “You’re always chasing consistency”, he said. “Consistency in terms of throwing accurately, the mechanics involved, repeating the motion. They certainly haven’t been eliminated, but there are much fewer ‘where-did-that-come-froms’ this year when we watch him practice. It looks better in many ways. The ball comes out cleaner, the timing looks better”.
One thing to be mentioned in the Jackson discussion is that he is incredibly young. He was just 20 years old when he started for the Ravens in the postseason, becoming the youngest quarterback ever to start a playoff game in league history. So it’s not as though he’s set in his ways.
And mechanics is something that can be taught at the NFL level for a quarterback, though more often than not there needs to be a solid foundation to work with. Not all great college quarterbacks are going to become great professionals if they can’t adapt to how they need to throw at this level. See the Tim Tebows and Baker Mayfields of the world.
It’s clear, though, that the Ravens do view Jackson as more than a quarterback. He is also a runner, without question, and he will continue to run, though they plan on cutting that back. Even while only starting seven games last season, he set an NFL record for the most rushing attempts by a quarterback in a single season with 147.
Imagine a starting quarterback rushing 10-15 times a game. In his seven starts, he averaged 17 attempts and was a top-10 rusher by yardage. But he also became one of the most unreliable ball-handlers in the league as well. He fumbled a total of 12 times as a rookie.
Ubran said there will be a “huge emphasis” on getting that under control. “I like to call it the squeaky wheel of his game, and the squeaky wheel is getting the oil every day out here. Mistakes he’s made in terms of holding the ball, carrying the ball, we’re making sure, when it shows up in practice, that it’s pointed out and worked on”.
Let’s hope they don’t work out all the bugs, because the Pittsburgh Steelers could certainly use a gift turnover or two from him per game.