The Baltimore Ravens just signed quarterback Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260 million contract, of which more than half is already fully guaranteed to him, with more to follow each year he remains on the roster in a rolling guarantee structure.
In spite of this, head coach John Harbaugh said that there would be “no conscious decisions” to design an offense that more greatly emphasizes his passing, nor which encourages him to throw the ball more rather than take off as a runner.
He was asked about this subject last week during the press conference the team held after Jackson signed the new deal, acknowledging that it’s one he and Jackson get all the time. “There really is no conscious decisions along those lines in a sense that Lamar is a unique player”, he said.
While much of Jackson’s running is actually built into the play design as a called run, it should also be noted that he scrambled at a career-low rate last season, doing so on only 25 of 378 dropbacks. He averaged over 50 scrambles per season over the prior three years representing proportionally higher percentages of take-off runs relative to total dropbacks.
And he also had one of his best seasons as a runner, averaging 6.8 yards per rush and nearly 64 yards per game, consistent with his career average even though he recorded fewer rushes per game than ever before as a starter. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he broke off a 79-yard run, a career long.
There’s no doubt that Jackson is one of the greatest runners at the quarterback position the game has ever seen, if not absolutely the greatest. But the question has long been if he can marry that to a higher and more consistent level of play from the pocket, to help them get over that playoff hump. But the Ravens are not going to force him into being more of a pocket passer.
“You encourage him to play the way he plays”, Harbaugh said. “I think he’s going to throw when it’s time to throw, and he’s going to run when it’s time to run. We’re going to play that kind of football, and it’s going to be great”.
As mentioned, however, Jackson’s scrambling is not really at issue. His scramble rate isn’t really out of the NFL norm in some extreme outlier fashion the way the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields is, who scrambled 70 times on 444 dropbacks.
It’s really, then, about the designed runs. And it’s reasonable to believe they can and will move away from that more. Greg Roman is gone as their offensive coordinator, and the running back room should be healthier and more effective this year after each of their top three players dealt with significant injuries.