Lamar Jackson Is Airing It Out, And Soon Getting Another Weapon

QB Lamar Jackson

The Ravens only scored 19 points and one touchdown, but Lamar Jackson could have had a career day passing in Detroit last Sunday.

Jackson threw for 287 yards against the Lions, the second-most passing yards in a regular-season game of his career. Without drops by wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Jackson may have topped 400.

But more than passing yards, the stat that stands out most with Jackson so far this season is this: no other quarterback in the NFL is throwing the ball further, more often.

After three games, Jackson's average distance of target is 12.3 yards, per Next Gen Stats. That's 2.6 further than the next-highest quarterback, Buffalo's Josh Allen. Against the Lions, Jackson attacked deep down the field time and time again, averaging a whopping 19.3 yards per attempt.

The Lions seemed determined to disrupt Jackson's running and Baltimore's rushing attack overall, but Jackson made them pay and would have done so even more without the drops.

"OTAs and stuff, we've been working on pushing the ball down the field. That was a huge emphasis coming in," Jackson said. "Coach was telling us, if we get a few during the game it will help us out throughout the game. That's definitely what we've been trying to do. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, but hopefully we'll be hitting a lot more throughout the season."

Much of the talk heading into the 2020 season was opening up the field more vertically and outside the numbers, but it didn't materialize in the first half of the year and the Ravens leaned on their rushing attack more down the stretch.

It's only been three games, but so far, the early returns this season suggest that Jackson and the passing offense are taking that next step this time.

Jackson currently leads the NFL in yards per completion and yards per carry. No player in NFL history has led in both categories in a season.

"It's not surprising to me," Jackson said. "But I just want to win. I don't really get into the statistics part of the game. It's about winning at the end of the day and that's what we've been doing."

"I think it's the defenses that you see," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "You see some defenses that don't allow you to push it downfield and force you to put it underneath. Other defenses give you some opportunities, and if you execute route running, protection and all those things, you get a chance to throw it downfield."

One tactic that defenses have used against Jackson is to play more zone coverage and crowd the middle of the field. That allows them to keep more eyes on Jackson as a runner while trying to create tight throwing windows for Jackson to one of his favorite targets in Mark Andrews.

The Lions cracked down on Baltimore's running last week, but Jackson found the open intermediate spaces in their defense.

"I feel I'm doing a pretty good job of that," he said. "Just being a lot more comfortable. Year 4 for me, that's pretty much what it is."

Where Jackson does need to be careful is with his interceptions. With more gambles can sometimes bring on more mistakes, and he has three interceptions in three games so far. He threw a ball up for grabs in Detroit in the second half when fading back and trying to make a play.

But most times, it's worked out for Jackson.

"Sometimes it's looking at the clock and getting caught up with the score and you try to make stuff happen too fast instead of taking what they give you," Jackson said.

Jackson will get another boost soon, as first-round rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman returned to the practice field Wednesday.

Bateman could further help open up Baltimore's passing attack, providing another target to take pressure off Brown and allow him to move more around the formation. Bateman can stress every part of the field.

Even though Jackson and Bateman overlapped just a couple days in training camp between Jackson's start on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and Bateman's groin injury, the quarterback is eager to get another top target on the field.

"A great route-runner, strong hands and he some sneaky speed," Jackson said. "I feel he's going to be hungry and ready when his time comes."

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