Lamar Jackson has been dogged by questions about his full potential as a true passer for a long time, pre-dating his time in the NFL. There were those who felt that he should convert to another position like wide receiver, something other college quarterbacks who didn’t have the skill set to cut it, have done in the past.
Three years into his professional career, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback has proven that whatever he’s doing works well enough, even if it’s not the most conventional method. He already owns the three top seasons for rushing attempts by a quarterback in NFL history, and just became the first to ever rush for 1000 yards more than once.
But with more postseason disappointment, the offense is really under the microscope this offseason and about how they can advance the passing game with Jackson, starting with getting him more help. Their first salvo in that war was the signing of Sammy Watkins, who thinks there’s one key to any great quarterback: having guys who make themselves available.
“It takes guys getting open to be great and look great and be the Patrick Mahomes of the world and be Tom Brady and be all these other top quarterbacks”, he said earlier this week during his first press conference as a member of the Ravens. “You’ve got to have that No. 1 receiver, that No. 2 and that No. 3, nowadays, to go out there and be successful and literally throw the ball with your eyes closed and be unconscious”.
The Ravens do have some talent at the skill positions, perhaps most notably tight end Mark Andrews, who has been Jackson’s favorite target since he entered the league. Marquise Brown has done some good things since being drafted in the first round in 2019 as well.
“If we can be a balanced offense and go out there and get open when we need to get open, I think Lamar can throw for those 4,000 yards or those 4,500 yards, 5,000. Whatever these guys are putting [up], I think he can be that quarterback and be elite in this game”, Watkins said.
“It’s no knock on him; when you watch film, honestly, everybody wasn’t getting open, and I think that’s a critical part with this offense”, he added. “We can blame the offensive coordinators, but as players, we’ve got to do our job, and that’s the thing. I’ve got to go out there and get open, and ‘Hollywood’ and whoever we have on the field has got to get open for Lamar. If we do that, he’ll be up there with the elite guys who we talk about every day”.
It sounds simple enough, but as any great route-runner will tell you, getting open is only the first step. You also have to have a quarterback who can go through his reads and then can get the ball to you where you’re open. Those are weaknesses in Jackson’s game. But any quarterback is helped by targets who get open, to state the obvious.