Lamar Jackson has set a high bar early in his career, winning the MVP award in his first full season as a starter and leading the Ravens to three straight playoff appearances.
However, Jackson's expectations are even higher. He has made his obsession with winning a Super Bowl very clear since the night the Ravens drafted him. To achieve that ultimate goal, Jackson's next challenge is to put in another offseason of hard work, and to return a better quarterback in 2021.
For Jackson, seeking more consistency as a passer will be a key part of the offseason. He is the most dynamic running quarterback in NFL history, with back-to-back seasons rushing for more than 1,000 yards.
But after completing 66.1 percent of his passes and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt during his MVP season in 2019, both of those numbers declined in 2020 (64.4 percent passing, 7.3 yards per attempt). His touchdowns dropped (36 to 26), interceptions rose (six to nine), and passing yards dipped (3,127 to 2,757).
Meanwhile, the Ravens are 1-3 in the playoffs with Jackson, and his quarterback rating in the postseason (68.3) is dramatically lower than his quarterback rating (102.6) during the regular season. Not all of the Ravens' postseason offensive woes fall on Jackson. But in the biggest games, opponents have found ways to neutralize Baltimore's biggest weapon.
Before the season, Jackson talked about becoming more accurate on deep passes and throwing with more consistency outside the numbers. Focus on those areas needs to continue, along with an emphasis on footwork and fundamentals.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has no doubt Jackson will attack the offseason with passion, as he looks to improve across the board as a quarterback.
"All the little things that he needs to perform on across the board we're detailing out, and we have been every single day," Harbaugh said. "It's not like it's a secret in terms of the football stuff. He's a young player still and he's going to continue to grow. I think if you talk to [Tom] Brady and [Drew] Brees, they would tell you that their growth continues right up until the day they retire.
"Lamar, I think, is just embarking on that, he's just starting on that and kind of figuring that out for himself. Like, what's his method going to be? And how is he going to go about growing into, ultimately, the quarterback that he's going to peak at going forward? I know that's kind of just general talk, but the truth is he needs to get better – just like all the players. But as a quarterback, it's the toughest position, and he'll tell you, he needs to get better at everything, and everything that goes with playing quarterback."
Jackson's field vision is excellent, he rarely fails to see receivers once they break open, and he can make every throw a quarterback needs to make. But he needs to make those throws more consistently, because the more Jackson puts throws on the money, the more Baltimore's offense will make defenses pay.
The Ravens haven't shown the consistent ability to counter effectively when defenses overload the box and limit Jackson's opportunities to run. Baltimore is averaging just 13.5 points in Jackson's four playoff games, and that lack of postseason production needs to change for the Ravens to reach a Super Bowl.
However, the Ravens are in a position most franchises envy. They have a charismatic quarterback who is a great leader, along with being a great player. He's 24 years old. Jackson is far more concerned with team success than individual awards or fame, and the pursuit of winning a Super Bowl will continue to fuel him.
Jackson's close friend, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, has already talked about working out more this offseason with Jackson and other teammates to improve their chemistry. Jackson's two favorite targets, Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, have a chance to play together for years, which will help them thrive off each other's talents.
Many quarterbacks don't reach their peak until their late 20's or early 30's. As good as Jackson has been, Harbaugh remains confident the best is yet to come.
"His skillset [and] his talent is really remarkable and unique," Harbaugh said. "He's got a great arm. He's a naturally gifted thrower, in terms of he's got arm talent, you would call it. He can run, he can extend plays, he sees the field well. Some of the plays he makes are just … We all, 'Wow.' That's Lamar, how did he do that? He did that in the game against the Bills, too. I think those are the things that make him so exciting and dangerous.
"You just build a foundation with that, in terms of the footwork on the drops, the consistency of throwing the ball and putting it in the spots you want to put it. All the depths of the field, and all spots of the field. All the timing routes. All the drop-backs – the different three-, five-, seven-step drops, the play-action drop-backs, the movement drop-backs in the pistol, under center, in the gun. He's going to work on all of those with all the different guys in the spots, and his receivers getting together with him. That's what quarterbacks do, and Lamar is no different than anybody else. He's going to work hard at that stuff, and he's going to improve and get better, and it'll show up in how he plays next year."