Lamar Jackson's 58.2% completion percentage and 156 rush attempts in the eight games he started at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens has many people believing that Jackson is an inaccurate passer and a system quarterback, one who will be overly reliant on his ability to run for the duration of his NFL career. Furthermore, they believe that his 2019 season will be more of the same. In their minds, it is a foregone conclusion with the Ravens bringing in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who tends to implement run-heavy offenses. Some early projections have Jackson taking as many as 240 carries.
It's easy to see how looking at last year's numbers and not understanding why Baltimore deployed Jackson the way that they did in year one could lead someone down the path of thinking he's not an accurate pocket passer and that his upcoming year will yield similar results. This article will show you why Jackson being a limited pocket passer is a false narrative and why it's likely the Ravens will pass the ball more than people think this upcoming season.
What Happened In 2018?
Recall that last year Joe Flacco was injured and Lamar Jackson was called into action. While the Ravens tried in the 2018 offseason to install an offense that both quarterbacks could operate, the reality is that Flacco and Jackson were stylistically very different players. The offensive scheme that accounted for Flacco's lack of mobility was not going to work for Jackson's skillset. Recall also that when Jackson took over, it was the latter half of the season when opposing teams' defenses tended to be more worn down and susceptible to giving up yards against tough running. The Ravens looked at all these factors and decided to implement a system that would suit Jackson's skills, would not push him to do too much too fast, and would give him a chance to win games and save what was quickly becoming a lost season. This approach was successful, as the Ravens made the playoffs and Jackson did not look overwhelmed as a passer.
Breaking Down the Film
For the sake of brevity, below are three plays that best exemplify Jackson’s growth and abilities. While Jackson was not perfect as the starter, he showed far more propensity to make plays like the ones that I will showcase here than negative ones. It was hard to choose three out of the many great plays on his film, leading to the belief that he has the ability to be a competent and accurate pocket passer is his baseline and not the outlier.
Vs. The Chargers in the 1st Round of the Playoffs
Here's an impressive throw that Jackson made early in the playoff game against the Chargers on third down. It was one of the few times in this game that his line protection held up and he didn't have someone immediately in the backfield harassing him. Jackson fit this ball perfectly between Derwin James and Jahleel Addae to pick up the first down. Place that ball anywhere but where he did and it would be batted down or become an interception. That's a very high difficulty throw fit into such a small window and one that demonstrates his ability to fit the ball into really tight spaces.
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