What's often lost in the debate about Lamar Jackson is that he's in his first offseason as a starting quarterback. At this time last year, Jackson was a wrinkle in a Joe Flacco-led offense.
Jackson is 22 years old and still doing a lot of learning. He's far from a finished product.
What's important is that Jackson is very much trending in the right direction. Asked Friday how he feels as compared to a year ago, Jackson said "a lot different."
"Play-calling – instead of telling my coach to say the play over and over again, having the clock run down – it's totally different this year," Jackson said. "We're moving the ball fast. A lot of execution is going on. I'm going through the motions. It's going good so far."
Jackson wasn't used to calling plays in the huddle when he arrived in Baltimore. There was a lot more verbiage. Layer that on top of having to learn an NFL scheme, and it was a lot on the rookie's plate.
The Ravens totally shifted offenses at midseason last year and Jackson still went 6-1 as a starter to push the Ravens to the AFC North title and a playoff berth.
He's going to have to play even better if Baltimore is going to repeat, and Jackson knows that. The Ravens have streamlined the offense and built it around Jackson's strengths, and the changes have been well received by the quarterback.
"I'm very comfortable," Jackson said. "I had months to prepare with it. There has been a lot of studying going on. I'm getting my chemistry down with my guys. I love it. I love the offense."
Since it's difficult or impossible for pundits to see much of the finer intricacies of Jackson's developments – like commanding the huddle or reading defenses – much of the attention has been paid to Jackson's accuracy.
His 58.2 completion percentage last year ranked 31st in the NFL and there were too many missed open opportunities. Jackson doesn't run from that stat.
"You guys saw me last year. You guys know I was horrible," Jackson said. "A lot of ducks. It's been decreasing, and it's been getting better. A lot of tight spirals. Not today, though."
Quarterbacks Coach James Urban isn't all that worried about Jackson's ducks (wobbly passes). Of course, a tight spiral is always preferred, but it's not a must-have.
"We work on it a lot, and it has improved dramatically. Some of it was adjusting to an NFL ball. Some of it was footwork and getting the body all connected, and that's a continual process," Urban said.
"We would like the nice, tight, pretty spiral, but I don't get overly concerned as long as it's on time and in rhythm and an accurate throw. That's way more important than how it looks."
Urban said Jackson has made strides in everything, but that the biggest may be in his comfort with the offense and verbalization – changing protections and calling plays.
Overall, the Ravens are quite happy with the growth they've seen in Jackson so far in Year 2. As opposed to last year, when the focus was on getting Flacco and the offense ready for the season, all the focus is on Jackson's development.
Head Coach John Harbaugh agreed with a reporter's assessment that Jackson seems to be less hesitant on the field.
"He has more experience, he knows the plays better, probably more natural for him," Harbaugh said. "I also think, probably, the fact that he's getting all the reps with the 'ones' might make it a little more natural for him, too. There are probably a lot of reasons for that."
"I'm kind of amazed by his demeanor and his personality. I look back at being 22 years old, and could only have hoped to have Lamar Jackson's poise and balance, sense of proportion. He just is who he is, and he doesn't get flustered, doesn't get fazed, it's never too big for him. He keeps it about what's important. I'm kind of blown away by that part of it with him."
Check out the action when Lamar Jackson and Co. took the field for Friday's practice.