As the NFL heads into its slowest stretch of the calendar year, when players, coaches and executives cash-in their vacation days, Lamar Jackson plans to take no such break.
Following minicamp, capped by one of his best practices of the summer, Jackson returned home to South Florida, where he'll try to continue the momentum he and his teammates built in practice over the past month or so.
"I'll do something individualized with my guys. I'll get with the receivers while we're down in Florida and stuff like that and pretty much grind, because the season is here," Jackson said.
"It's really not the offseason anymore. For us, I'll say, we've just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can't go backwards right now, because we already had our fun and did whatever we did during the regular offseason. Not this time; it's straight go-mode right now."
Even though he's already won an MVP and is one of the league's brightest stars, there's still room for growth for Jackson – and that's a good thing. Considering Jackson is 24 years old, the Ravens don't really pinpoint one area of focus. It's still everything.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said not having a full offseason of practice with Jackson last year limited the Ravens and Jackson's ability to "become more diverse in his skillset."
"Lamar already does so many things at a high level that other quarterbacks can't do," Harbaugh said. "So, you definitely build around those things and try to add to them, enhance them and put more tools in his toolkit that you feel comfortable using in games and calling and attacking people with. That's what we're trying to do across the board."
Jackson specifically pointed to focusing on his footwork – "making sure I stay open so the ball can drive, so I can put a little tight spiral on the ball."
When Jackson's mechanics in his lower half are right, the ball comes out much cleaner. When it's not, the ball sometimes flutters on him.
The final minicamp practice was a perfect example. Jackson's first pass of 11-on-11 drills was a gorgeous deep ball to Sammy Watkins for what would have been a touchdown. Jackson dropped it in the perfect spot right over Watkins's outside shoulder. But later in practice, when his feet weren't right, Jackson's deep pass came out of his hand wrong and was an easy, floating interception for Marlon Humphrey.
The mechanics are especially important on deep passes, which Jackson identified as the other "big emphasis" for him this offseason. On passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air, Jackson completed 34% in his MVP 2019 season and 34.8% last season, per Next Gen Stats. That ranks him 21st in the NFL over the past two years.
Jackson will likely get together with his wide receiver and good friend Marquise "Hollywood" Brown before training camp. Watkins is also a South Florida guy, so it will be interesting to see if he joins in on the workouts before training camp.
"People are always saying we throw short, intermediate routes and stuff like that – little 5-yard, 10-yard routes," Jackson said. "But we had some chances last year. We hit some of them, but we're just trying to be more consistent this year. That's where the strides happen. It starts in practice, and hopefully it transitions to the game. We've just got to keep working on it."
Step inside the action of the two high-energy practices through the lens of Team Photographer Shawn Hubbard.