Lamar Jackson may have led the NFL in touchdown passes and posted the highest touchdown percentage in years, but the Baltimore Ravens quarterback knows he still had work to do before he becomes a complete NFL passer in today’s game. He may well be in store for the MVP award, but the fact is, his fundamentals in the most basic aspect of his job are still in need of fine-tuning.
He knows this. He’s talked about it. At the Pro Bowl yesterday, he said of his season as a thrower, “it could’ve been better. You always want to be better as a passer”. Earlier on, he told Jamison Hensley, “I’m not the best, I’m not the greatest. I’m going into my third year, and I’m trying to get somewhere. I’m trying to get to the Super Bowl. So I’ve got to work on everything”.
While it’s an entirely meaningless exhibition exercise done for fun, the Pro Bowl did host a skills competition series of events yesterday, and truth be told, overall, Jackson certainly did not look like the most polished passer in the group. There was a precision passing drill, and though he was aiming for deeper targets, he only his two on 17 passes, the worst in the group. He did reach at least middling in other events.
Jackson was asked what happened during his performance in the precision passing drill. “A lot of bad throws”, he admitted, “and a little wind with me. It’s all good”.
Jackson’s 401 pass attempts during the 2019 season ranked 26th in the league, the fewest by 40 among all quarterbacks who started more than 11 games. He did complete 66.1 percent of his passes, though, which ranked in the top 10 among eligible passers.
His 36 touchdown passes, despite sitting out the finale, were the most in the league by three over Jameis Winston, while his interception rate ranked 11th. He only threw for 3127 yards during the year, which ranked 22nd, but everyone who threw more did so on at least 40 more attempts, and he still averaged 7.8 yards per pass attempt, which is quite a healthy figure.
Oh, and he also rushed for 1206 yards with seven touchdowns, leading the league at 6.9 yards per rush. He set the NFL record for rushing yards in a single season by a quarterback, becoming just the second ever to reach 1000 yards, the first being Michael Vick.
Still, Jackson’s arm did not show up when he needed it most. In the postseason, he only completed 31 of 59 pass attempts (by far a career-high in attempts). He did throw for 365 yards, but averages just 6.19 yards per attempt, with one touchdown to two interceptions, in a blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans.
There are still those who can’t help but wonder, if the Ravens want to take the next step and make a deep run into the playoffs, does Jackson still need to be a better passer than he is currently capable of being? And if so, will he get there, soon?