Go on social media and you won’t have any trouble finding folks who doubt Lamar Jackson’s throwing ability. Every miss, every waggle in his spiral and they’ll emphatically point to it as evidence.
Don’t expect Jackson to get rattled. After all, he may be his own harshest critic.
Jackson’s development as a thrower is one of the biggest storylines of the Ravens’ offseason. The general consensus after Thursday's practice open to the media was that Jackson had a pretty strong day. He completed a bunch of passes at every level, had nice zip on his throws and found running back Gus Edwards in a tight window for a "game-winning" touchdown at the end of practice.
But when asked afterwards to evaluate his performance in his first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Jackson didn’t pull any punches.
“I’d say my first day, I sucked,” Jackson said. “Second day, I did better. Today was alright, but it could have been better. I always try to be perfect in practice. It was alright for the first week.”
Jackson has put in the work this offseason, training in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla. with his high school coach. He said he threw every Monday-Friday, working to improve his mechanics and accuracy. Now that the Ravens have reached OTAs, Baltimore’s coaches have begun their work on tightening up his fundamentals, which everyone expects to help his completion percentage.
Jackson’s 58.2 completion rate last year was 30th in the league – still ahead of fellow rookies Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. If Jackson can get that higher and add it to his already one-of-a-kind running threat, it would make Baltimore’s offense that much more dangerous.
Jackson said he has noticed a definite difference in mechanics already when watching film.
“I see my hip is firing. Coach always wants me to, ‘Fire my hip! Fire my hip!’” Jackson said. “Keeping a wide base, that’s been showing up a lot on film. But I’ve got to get that spiral tighter.”
While there’s improvement, it’s not nearly enough to make Jackson happy. One thing he’s particularly frustrated with is that he’s not throwing tight enough spirals. There’s been too much wobble.
“It’s my hand placement,” Jackson said. “I feel like my hand will be a little too high on the football sometimes. That will make the ball go out of whack.”
It’s only May and the start of OTAs. The Ravens don’t suit up for a regular-season game until Sept. 8, so Jackson doesn’t have to be a “finished” product yet. The entire point of practice is to improve, and there is a lot of time for Jackson to have better days.
“I need to focus on everything,” Jackson said. “I’m bad at everything right now until we’re where we should be.”
That drive to get better is one reason the Ravens have faith in their second-year quarterback. Veteran running back Mark Ingram said it’s clear that Jackson “wants to be great” by the way he works and competes.
Jackson may never throw like Drew Brees, who Ingram played with in New Orleans, but if Jackson becomes efficient and effective in his own way, he can be extremely successful.
“Man, he can throw it,” Ingram said of Jackson. “I’ve seen him make a lot of tight throws in tight windows. I’ve seen him make some deep throws. I’ve seen him go through his progressions, make check-downs, see guys in second windows in zones. He’s making his reads, he’s getting better.
“Of course, there are going to be times where he might throw something he wants to have back, but that’s part of growing and maturing as a young quarterback. I played with Drew Brees eight years and there are throws he wishes he had back. … I’m glad [Jackson is] the quarterback of our team and we’re all behind him.”