Lamar Jackson Is Still A Masterpiece In Progress

Lamar Jackson is a dynamic quarterback and probably the most exciting player in the NFL. Fans need to understand that the 24-year-old star still has space for growth as a quarterback.

Few will argue against Lamar Jackson being called “the NFL’s most dangerous weapon.” Even fewer will argue that the Baltimore Ravens franchise QB is an elite passer, but he has the ability to be. He’s certainly not a poor passer, just inconsistent and very green. If he does ever elevate to that next level, he will be unstoppable.

Jackson’s lack of consistent QB play came back to haunt the Ravens on “Monday Night Football” in a 33-27 loss to Jon Gruden’s Raiders.

The human highlight reel provided fans with an array of amazing runs and passes that makes him worth the price of admission (312 total yards) but he struggled with his maturity as a passer when it mattered most. 

 

Lamar Jackson Is Still Learning The Art Of Quarterbacking 

Jackson’s lack of pocket savvy and impatience while going through his progressions led to three costly fumbles. He had the ball in his hands with a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter but fumbled for a second time, setting up a Las Vegas Raiders touchdown that tied the game.

“That ticked me off,” Jackson said after the game of the fumbles. “I hate any type of turnovers. The first one … didn’t tick me off like the last one, just two hands on the football …”

Being able to exercise poise in passing situations is a huge part of being an elite passer. Jackson’s tendency to panic  — especially when the pass rush is intense — was his downfall on Monday.

Two plays highlighted the downside of Jackson’s exciting performance.

Second Quarter Fumble

The Ravens had a chance to extend their 14-10 lead in the second quarter right before halftime. Jackson wanted to throw to his tight end Mark Andrews, but Andrews was covered at the top of the route. Instead of taking his time and stepping up in the pocket and hitting Edwards as he broke free, Jackson held the ball and turned it over on the sack.

Overtime Fumble

Jackson struggled with his progression and ball protection again on a potential game-sealing drive. Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib strip-sacked Jackson, giving Vegas the ball in scoring position. Three plays later the Raiders closed out the game with a score.

Lamar’s not quite ready to admit that those fumbles were his fault, but he acknowledges the challenges the Raiders pass rush posed as he tried to go through his different levels of reads.

“If you’re a quarterback, you’re trying to go through your progressions, and guys in your face, they’re trying to get them a sack, it’s going to be like that,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you can’t go through your reads. You’ve got to make something happen. That’s what I tried to do on the last one. I seen it breaking down, I tried to push a lineman in the pocket and he hit me while I was doing it, so I’ll just try to hold onto the ball next time.”

And while that’s a good thing, it can also be problematic. Former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick — the prototype running quarterback — learned that you can’t rely on being athletically superior forever.

Eventually, he had to improve his all-around approach as a QB. Study more film. Dive deep into the nuances of defense, work on his passing, playcalling, and accuracy.

Developing As A Passer

Jackson is embarking on a crucial fourth season as far as his development as a passer is concerned, but he’s still more athlete than quarterback.

Jackson is also comparable to a young Steve Young with the Niners. He’s oozing with raw talent. Unrefined greatness.

Jackson has taken the league by storm the last two seasons, winning the league MVP with 4,333 combined yards (rushing/passing) and a league-leading 36 TD passes in 2019. The Ravens will be perennial contenders for at least the next half decade with him at the helm.

 Why Worry About What Could Be?

It’s almost nitpicking to criticize Jackson’s passing ability because his total package of skills often compensates for any lapses in a specific aspect of his game. 

The word “potential” can be haunting when that’s all people see. Such is the case with Jackson. His predicament is a far cry from when certain GMs were suggesting he switch to running back or wide receiver before the 2018 NFL Draft.

But his explosive arrival has him in a catch-22 situation. First, he wasn’t good enough. Now they want perfection from the 24-year-old.

It’s Not All Lamar’s Fault 

To be fair, Jackson is still lacking a true No. 1 receiver to make plays downfield. That was supposed to be former Minnesota Golden Gophers standout Rashod Bateman, but the rookie is banged up.

Lack of Coaching Development

Lamar’s modest passing numbers are also due to the scheme and the lack of development he’s receiving from offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterbacks coach James Urban.

Ability to read defenses aside, Jackson’s crucial fumbles occurred because he’s not being taught to hold the ball with two hands or higher when going through his progressions. Or maybe he’s just not doing it, which would be surprising because he’s always been a coachable player.

If the Ravens want to win a Super Bowl during Jackson’s era, he’ll need to develop into a quarterback who uses his legs as his second option.