It was arguably the best game of Lamar Jackson's NFL career thus far: Week 1, 2019, in Miami.
Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in the Ravens' 59-10 victory, and afterward roasted his doubters with the "not bad for a running back" line. Jackson threw touchdown passes to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Willie Snead IV, and Miles Boykin that day.
It's safe to say Jackson will have even better targets this time around, as the Ravens kick off their 2023 regular season Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Houston Texans.
All the talk around Baltimore this offseason has been about the additions of Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round pick Zay Flowers. Add that to the return of Rashod Bateman, continued dominance of Mark Andrews, and a healthy and talented backfield.
Jackson now has the scheme and weapons to thrive. That 2019 season ended with a unanimous MVP. What will Jackson do this year? He can't wait to find out.
"I'd say I'm a little bit anxious, but Coach [John] Harbaugh said in a meeting, 'Don't peak too soon.' So, I'm not trying to peak too soon," Jackson said. "I'm just pumped to be honest. [I] can't wait to get out there.
"I feel very comfortable. I feel great actually. Just the explosiveness, getting the ball out [of] my hands faster, getting guys open. [I] just can't wait to see it in a regular game now so we can actually talk about it more in depth."
The Ravens built a run-heavy offense around Jackson when he was on his first contract. After giving him the richest deal in NFL history (at the time), it's now Jackson's time to take the next step as a passer. He has an aggressive coordinator, the weapons, and the tools.
"I think all of us inside of these four walls know his capabilities. We always have," Bateman said. "I think we've got a good offensive coordinator that puts him in the right positions to use his strengths the best way. I think we're definitely excited to see that."
Behind all the hype about the weapons, the projections and predictions, there's been a lot of work put into turning high expectations into positive results. That is what Harbaugh is excited to see.
"Lamar is a confident guy, and he's confident because he's another guy that works so hard at it," Harbaugh said. "Lamar has put everything into it. He has been out here. He's been studying day and night. He's been working on all of his fundamentals, and he's ready to go. And like we said last week, he's ready to be on point with everything he does."
But there are those outside the Ravens' walls who still think it won't work. Count ESPN analyst and former Steelers running back Merril Hoge among those who don't think Jackson is ready to flourish as a higher volume passer.
"The way they're talking about it, they're going to ask Lamar to do something he's not good at, he's never shown he's good at, and that's playing a pro-style, traditional NFL offense," Hoge said.
Maybe that fired up Jackson. He wasn't asked about it directly. But when asked whether he feels ready to show people the quarterback he's always envisioned himself to be, Jackson nodded.
"I believe so, but I also believe there'll always be doubters no matter what you're showing people," Jackson said. "It's all about proving yourself right, not everyone else. So, I'm just going to go out there and do what I do, and we're going to see."
Jackson is so eager for the Ravens' season to start that he's running during walk-throughs. While lifting weights Wednesday with Strength & Conditioning Coach Scott Elliott, Jackson told him he was ready to play right now.
A major part of that is because of his early exit last year, the second year in a row that he was out during the home stretch of the season. Due to an ailing knee injury, Jackson had to watch the Ravens lose to the Bengals in the wild-card playoffs. He hasn't played since Dec. 4, 2022.
"It's a long time," Jackson said. "So I'm just pumped. That's a long time, so I'm ready to get out there on the field. … I'm back. [I] feel like I'm better – 100%. So, I'm ready to show it."