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How Lamar Jackson Is Sharpening His Passing Attack


Lamar Jackson was the league MVP, but the Ravens see a quarterback still just scratching the surface.

Jackson is just 23 years old – younger than Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback and top-overall pick Joe Burrow. Jackson is entering just his second full season as a starter.

So this offseason, despite now having plenty of hardware (probably in boxes), Jackson has dug into many different aspects of improving his game.

"Lamar is still relatively a young player," Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. "Really, all aspects of his game he was able to look into with a critical eye and discuss certain things. I think it's been very valuable for him. I don't think it's been just one thing, it's really everything."

Roman did, however, say that there are some things that the Ravens want to emphasize. One of those is throwing the ball to different parts of the field better.

Jackson's abilities as a runner don't require much tinkering. His maturation as a passer will continue to be the focus, and he's already made huge strides. Last year, he jumped from a 58 percent completion rate as a rookie to 66 percent as a sophomore. He tossed a league-leading 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions and threw for 3,127 yards.

With better mechanics, Jackson's accuracy improved greatly. He read defenses better, he made better decisions, etc. But there's still room for improvement in attacking the perimeter of defenses with his arm.

Considering the Ravens are such a strong, record-setting, running team, opponents are crowding the line of scrimmage. Jackson still had a ton of success throwing over the middle last year, with tight end Mark Andrews being his top target.

But as teams bunch up in the middle of the field to stop the running and passing game, the Ravens need to take advantage of more vulnerable one-on-one matchups on the outside – and that isn't just with deep balls, as was previously talked about this offseason.

"We're talking about pushing the ball to spots where the defense is not," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Our offense – like any offense – the idea is to force people to defend certain things. Hopefully, they can't do it in a balanced way, and you have to overcommit resources to certain aspects of the game. That's the chess game.

"And a lot of times, the way our offense sets up sometimes, those throws will be outside, intermediate or downfield – downfield down the middle or down the sidelines. It can be on the sidelines with outs, comebacks, deep curls, deep stop routes. It can be deep stop routes over the middle. These are all types of routes that we have time to throw, a lot of times. If we can, really, [we want to] more and more hurt people."

Jackson already had a good amount of success throwing those routes last year, but it can be better and more dangerous. The Ravens are expecting big second-year jumps from wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin, and their ability to threaten defenses along with Jackson will go a long way in determining whether the Ravens offense will be even more dangerous than it was last year.

Beyond that, it's up to Jackson to improve across the board and continue to dazzle.

"Picture a bar graph and there's 50 or 60 things that every day you're measured in each category at," Roman said. "If you can get all 50 of those up 2 percent or 3 percent, then you're a much better player at the end of the day.

"I think there's a magic to his style and how he plays – some creativity. We always want to focus that creativity and that energy into winning football and winning football decisions on the field – accuracy, timing, vision, all those things. It's a constant, slow, steady upward tick in all those different categories."

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