In this Baltimore Ravens Q&A we’ve got a theme and it’s all about Lamar Jackson:
@parham_russ asks: My primary concern with Lamar Jackson is will his skill set allow the offense to depend a little less on the run game? Can he spread the defense out and carve them up when we’re behind or make adjustment?
Answer: Can he do it in the regular season? Sure. Can he do it in the playoffs? That still has to be seen, but you have to think he’ll get past the divisional round at some point (hopefully this year). Jackson has actually done a great job under pressure so far in his career. In 2018 he won a lot of close games and gave the Ravens a real chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2019 he won in some tough games. During the 12 game winning streak he showed up in the biggest moments, not just when the Ravens were rolling over their opponent.
That being said, adjustments were not his or the Ravens strength last season. It’s an incredibly valid question. I think we’ll see the natural evolution of the offense in 2020. In 2018 it was a make-shift offense that allowed Jackson to operate in his comfort zone. In 2019 it was tailored to Jackson and the impact he has on the running game; but he still led the league in touchdown passes. This year the Ravens will still be run focused, but there will be more of a quick strike element with the passing game.
The key is that the Ravens have to do better when the defense has the rushing lanes clogged up and Jackson can only wiggle out of trouble and not escape downfield. That’s why I think the Ravens went with receivers like Devin Duvernay and James Proche this offseason. The next step is a quick passing game built off the threat of the run.
Jackson’s timing was off at times last year. That should be improved. Adding a slot receiver like Duvernay was needed. It will give Jackson an underneath route. Mark Andrews is always a big play threat over the middle of the field. Marquise Brown is a deep threat that can also take a quick slant to the house. Having a good slot receiver could be all the Ravens really needed to get the kind of quick passing game that will open the run game back up.
From a decision making standpoint I don’t get nervous with Jackson. His touchdown to interception ratio speaks for itself. Jackson is an efficient passer. Having a different element at the wide receiver position will in theory allow the Ravens to take the next step. It should allow the quick pass to make defenses pay for trying to stop the run like their lives depended on it.