Can Lamar Jackson compete against elite quarterbacks with only his strides?
Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson is expected to lead the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 season. He stepped in to replace an injured Joe Flacco in Week 9 and in seven games, he accomplished a lot more than expected, leading his team to an AFC North title and to the Wild Card round.
Jackson was selected in Round 1 (32nd overall) of the 2018 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. This was after Baltimore acquired the pick in exchange for the 52nd, 125th picks and a 2019 second-round selection. Everyone took notice, including Joe Flacco.
“They chose another quarterback? Is Flacco out the door?”
Joe “Cool” Flacco had enough dismal seasons that the front office decided it was time for a change.
Our First Look at Jackson
When Jackson took over in Week 11, he was all legs. He was quickly taken and essentially used as a running back. Instead of gripping the ball after the snap and taking a step back to prepare while looking downfield for a receiver to throw to, he decided to become a running threat. He recorded 119 rushing yards on 26 carries and 150 passing yards on 19 attempts in his first start. The defense was mightily confused. It got to the point where they did not know if it was going to be a passing play or a scramble by Jackson. Jackson would lead the team to a 24-21 win and the organization became hooked on this former Heisman Trophy winner.
They saw a young, fast, and motivated rookie quarterback that moved the chains. He effectively ran the offense. He continued his “running reign of terror” until he met the Chargers for the second time in Week 16. Fortunately enough, the team ran all over the Los Angeles Chargers with a 22-10 win. However, that wouldn’t last long.
When the team met Los Angeles during the wide card round, they adjusted and ultimately stopped the run game. On the flip side, the Ravens would fail to find a counter to the Chargers’ game plan and lose the game. That game caused a lot of skepticism in Jackson’s ability. Once a team learned his strategy and adjusted, they would be able to put a stop to his run game. With very little throwing ability, Jackson would be forced to use his own running ability. Teams have had the offseason to study films of different teams. Every team that plays the Ravens will be watching the film on Lamar Jackson and tightening up their front seven defense.
Jackson Must Improve
For the Baltimore Ravens to continue success, their first-round quarterback needs to learn to improve his passing ability. According to Coach Harbaugh, he is putting in the work to become a better passer. Jackson practiced last month in Florida with wide receivers Jordan Lasley and Jaylen Smith. Jackson wasted no time in participating in the offseason workouts at the Owings Mills facility once he returned from Florida. He has an excellent work ethic and knows the areas that he needs to improve on.
“Keeping a wide base, throwing outbreaking routes, just trying to be spot-on with my accuracy, trying to work on each and every attribute I can,” Jackson said.
Another thorn in his side is his ball security, which frankly is questionable. He had 12 fumbles in nine games (Weeks 1, 9, 11-17). Fumbling can be a career-killer for some football positions. It’s all in the mechanics and fundamentals. Ball security can be taught. A player can learn the best way to hold the ball depending on his situation.
Jackson has a resume full of awards and honors. In 2016, he was honored with the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Associated Press Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year and the 2016 and 2017 ACC Offensive Player of the Year. He was an explosive player at Louisville where he carried the ball in one hand when he scrambled. In college, you can get away with that. But not so much in the NFL. The transition from college to the NFL is never an easy road. Nevertheless, offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, has a good feeling about Jackson.
“I’ll tell you what, he has a great feel for the game, and he can do things you can’t coach in the passing game,” Roman said. “He has really, really good field vision, and that’s something we noticed last spring.”
Jackson has all the qualities needed to develop and become a great NFL quarterback. With coaching help, a good work ethic and the development of his fundamental skills, he could lead this team to a winning season.