The Baltimore Ravens were not trying to play Lamar Jackson exclusively at quarterback at the start of last season. In fact, it would not have happened if it weren't for an injury to Joe Flacco. From there, Jackson took over and never relinquished the position again. And after leading the Ravens to the playoffs, Jackson is firmly entrenched as the starter in Baltimore. Even with his success last season, there are still that have doubts about him and what he can or cannot do. Well, this year could be the season he takes another step towards knocking down some of the criticisms he has faced over his career.
One of the biggest criticisms plenty gave him was his completion percentage. True enough, some passes he threw last season left a lot to be desired and he has to take responsibility for that, but all of it isn't on Jackson's performance as a passer at all. Leading receiver Michael Crabtree struggled with Jackson at quarterback. One reason he struggled is he could not get separation from defensive backs consistently. When your leading receiver struggles to get separation from defensive backs, it's going to make it harder to complete passes. They added Hollywood Brown through the draft this offseason to bring more speed to their team, but they also added Mark Ingram to bring something special to their backfield. With former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson of triple-option offense fame showing up around the Ravens this offseason, the Ravens could be putting in some things to accentuate the running game while making things a little easier for Jackson based off the threat of the run game and the different looks they give defenses.
The offense may change and allow Jackson to have some easier reads, but essentially it comes down to the learning curve of Jackson from Year 1 to Year 2. When he first got into action, he thought he was still in college where he could hang on to the ball forever and elude people. That is unfortunately not the case anymore with Jackson in the pros. Even though he is an electric quarterback when he tucks the football, he isn't going to be able to escape everything. So to curve that, he has to make it through his reads just a little bit quicker, have more pocket presence and take what the defense gives him. At times, he did take what the defense gave, but at other times, he was seemingly hanging on to the football forever, waiting for someone to break open. At that point, it is too late to show off those wheels of his. Getting through his reads and knowing what the defense is trying to do that only comes with repetition and preparation. And for those that aren't aware of Jackson's wok ethic, he definitely puts in the time and the work. Just look at his progression from his freshman year of college to his junior season.
Jackson has a lot of people rooting for him to do well. He also has a lot of people wanting to see him fail. With all the expectation placed upon him as the new face of the franchise, it will be interesting to see how things develop for him in his second year with more footage out there on him. The biggest thing to watch will be how he adjusts to the adjustments teams have made to neutralize him based on the film from last season.