Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is “light years ahead” of where he was last year
The biggest question mark surrounding Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson heading into the 2019 season in his first stint as a full-time starter after leading the team to the playoffs as a rookie after he stepped in for an injured Joe Flacco was how or if he could become a more consistent and polished passer of the football after running the team into the postseason during the second half of the 2018 season.
Following his league MVP winning campaign in 2019 where he was the focal point of an offense that shattered individual and team rushing records and saw him lead the NFL in touchdowns passes with 36, including a league-high 25 from inside the pocket, the biggest question now outside of his playoff shortcomings which won’t be answered until January is “What next?”
Nobody had a better vantage point to marvel in what Jackson was able to accomplish last year than veteran running back Mark Ingram who became an instant hit on the field and in the locker room in his first year with the team.
The 23-year old face of the franchise is relentlessly dedicated to his craft and the pursuit of winning a championship and Ingram believes that Jackson his far ahead of where he was a year ago around this time as the team is gearing up for the season opener with even more room still left to grow.
“I feel like he’s light years ahead right now of where he was at last year,” Ingram said Wednesday.
“He’s going to continue to improve, he’s going to continue to get better, he’s going to continue to be more confident in his abilities within the offense, knowing the offense, knowing the ins and outs and adjustments within the offense. He’s just continuing to grow. It’s special to be able to see it because I feel like he’s a million times ahead of where he was at this point at last year.”
Jackson and the Ravens opened the 2019 season with as loud of a statement as anyone could ask for with a 59-10 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins on the road where Jackson threw more touchdowns than he did incompletions with an astonishing final stat line of 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five scores threw the air and perfect passer rating of 158.3 in less than a full four quarters of playing time since he sat for nearly the entire final quarter.
It was not only a bit of a homecoming for the young quarterback and Florida native embarking on his pivotal second season in the league, it was a mere glimpse of what was to come in the ensuing months as he lit the league ablaze with his electric dual-threat playmaking ability.
His performance from start to finish last season was not only “not bad for a running back” as he sarcastically said in the locker room after putting up video game-like numbers on the Dolphins in last year’s opener, but it was also historically sensational for a quarterback.
There is currently a wide-sweeping notion among Jackson’s critics and skeptics that still persist that defense around the league now has a full year tape on Jackson to study and figure out a way to slow him down and neutralize what he does best. However, Jackson hasn’t been resting on his 2019 laurels this offseason. He’s been in the lab and in the film room studying himself and where he can improve as well as opposing defenses and how they might try to defend him differently coming off his break out season.
Before he became the reigning Superbowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs was the reigning league MVP after he had a historic season of his own in 2018. He shared that his biggest leap from year two to year three was his ability to read and diagnose defenses and that appears to be the same approach that Jackson took heading into his third season.
“I feel I’ve grown pretty good,” Jackson said. “I do it at practice sometimes. I see things and go back and talk to my coach, Coach [James] Urban, and tell him what I’ve seen. I feel like I’m getting very comfortable as the weeks and years go on.”
Jackson hopes to be the third straight quarterback to lead his team to a Superbowl victory after winning league MVP the year prior. He and the Ravens will begin their quest for the franchise’s third Lombardi trophy this Sunday when they welcome the Cleveland Brown to M&T Bank Stadium to christen the 2020 season with a clash between AFC North rivals.
If he can come anywhere close to the awe-inspiring performance that he put together in last year’s opener, then the Browns will be in for a long day and the Ravens will be off to another hot start to their season behind their ascending star quarterback that continues to improve by leaps and bounds.