Lamar Jackson sees possibilities, even when others see a potential problem.
The Ravens have been hit by injuries at wide receiver during training camp, with just six wideouts on the field for Tuesday's practice. But Jackson isn't questioning whether he will have enough time to build chemistry with the revamped wide receiver group before the season opener on Sept. 13.
Jackson is entering his fourth season as a former NFL MVP with a relentless drive to improve. He spent time working out on his own this offseason with Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Sammy Watkins, Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins and Rashod Bateman.
With Brown, Watkins, Bateman, Miles Boykin and James Proche II all absent from Tuesday's practice, Jackson worked with the receivers who were healthy and didn't fret about who wasn't in uniform. Jackson firmly believes that the work he has already done with his injured targets will pay off once they return to health.
"I worked with those guys before they went down," Jackson said. "When they come back, we're going to be hitting right where we started off. We've got guys that came and are doing a tremendous job since those guys have been out. When they get back, we're going to go from there. They've been working hard and we've been working hard as well."
Many of the injured Ravens receivers are going through the walk-through portion of practice later in the day with the team, Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
"They get a lot of mental work during all the meetings. It's not like they're on vacation," Harbaugh said. "They do their rehab work, and then they do all the football work except for practice."
There are other reasons why Jackson isn't worried about chemistry with his receivers. Brown and Jackson have been teammates for two seasons and they are in sync on and off the field. Watkins has six years of NFL experience to draw from, and in addition to working with Jackson in Arizona, he is familiar with many aspects of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's offense from the time they spent together with the Buffalo Bills.
Watkins also has a tight bond with new Pass Game Coordinator Keith Williams, who was Watkins' personal coach before joining Baltimore's staff. New Wide Receivers Coach Tee Williams won a national championship as a quarterback at Tennessee, and brings a quarterback’s perspective to the wide receiver room.
In addition, Dobbins has clearly made strides as a receiver out of the backfield, and he hooked up with Jackson for the best catch of the day Tuesday. Dobbins turned on the jets to haul in a deep pass down the sideline. Jackson wanted to work with Dobbins in Arizona because he expected the second-year running back to be a bigger part of the passing game this season.
"We worked out in Arizona, he was catching the ball pretty good," Jackson said. "He got fatigued. He started dropping a couple of passes. I was on him. I'm like, 'You're going to have to catch those in the game when you get tired.' He's been doing a great job in camp and OTAs as well."
Meanwhile, if you want to see chemistry, look no further than Jackson throwing to Andrews, which has been the most consistent combination in camp. Andrews has caught 156 passes for 2,105 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons with Baltimore, but he believes he and Jackson can take their output to another level in 2021.
"I think you've always got to kind of look yourself in the mirror – see what things you're good at, things that you're not so good at – and I know for us, Lamar and I, and the rest of the offense, we're always looking to grow and get better," Andrews said. "I think we've done a great job of kind of seeing where we're at and building off that. Each day, we're coming out here, taking it play-by-play, day-by-day and just getting better. If you do that every day, you're bound to get better."
Jackson has not seen any preseason action and isn't sure if he will play in Saturday's preseason finale against Washington.
"I'd love to play, get out there with my guys," Jackson said. "But that's coach's decision. I'm with him, whatever he decides."
But since his return after missing the first 10 days of training camp (Reserve/COVID-19) Jackson has thrown consistently at practice, and he has done extra work before and after with Quarterbacks Coach James Urban. Jackson looks like a quarterback ready for Week 1. While he believes in building chemistry, he doesn't believe it will be an issue.
"Each and every year it's going to get stronger, the chemistry," Jackson said. "Chemistry is there as long as your guys are working. Those (injured) guys have been working hard. Even though they've been out, they're been working hard to get back with us. We're pros."