Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, at least for the back nine of his playing days, was “in the best shape of his career” annually by the time he reached training camp, according to various reporters. Sometimes it was closer to being true than others.
The refrain for Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens certainly appears to be shaping up nicely, and that is the notion of him throwing the ball better than so-and-so has ever seen him throw. Typically, the biggest deficiency seen in a player will suddenly be seen to be on the way up. For Jackson, these kudos came yesterday from his own offensive coordinator, Greg Roman.
“I think it’s the best I’ve ever seen him throw it, thus far”, he told reporters following practice, via the team’s website. “What are we, three days in? And he’s throwing it, probably, better than I’ve ever seen him throw it”.
The 32nd-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson took the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, but they squandered their opportunity last year while he was injured in the final month, actually posting a losing record despite Jackson finishing with a personal record of 7-5 (including a loss in a game in which he hardly played).
In spite of their success with him under center, he has never been regarded as suited to the traditional pocket passer mold. It’s not simply that he had these other abilities that set him apart, but rather, his success depended upon exercising those abilities, because his passing skills were limited enough that he would struggle to find success without his ability to run the ball.
Because of that, it’s been a constant source of discussion, and focus, and whatever else you might want to say. Jackson does take a good deal of pride in his passing, all the same. But there is certainly room for improvement. Roman at least believes that he is seeing it.
“He’s really worked hard in the offseason, and it’s showing, so he’s got to build on that”, he said. “It’s really exciting. We’re all very excited about that. And now we’ve all got to get on the same page, so we can function as a unit and put that performance”.
The 2021 season is not a particularly fair one on which to judge him, however, because the Ravens were severely impacted by injury, starting with the entirety of their backfield, as well as along the offensive line.
Never before was he asked to do more, and for much of the season, he was doing it, helping them win, even if it didn’t look as pretty as it might have typically. Heading into the first game against the Steelers, they were 8-3 and poised for the number one seed. Then they didn’t win another game. And the vast majority of it was with him out injured.