Lamar Jackson has made it clear he wants to get the Ravens wide receivers more involved. However, the wide receivers have made it clear to Jackson that he should focus on doing whatever it takes to win.
“That’s my guy, man,” said Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree. “We won the game, so I told him to not even put too much on getting targets and all of that, just worry about winning. I’m excited to go out there this week and see what he’s got. This is his second game, so he’s just adding on.”
The chemistry between Jackson and his wide receivers will continue to evolve as the rookie quarterback prepares for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.
Jackson’s one-game sample as a starting quarterback has been thoroughly dissected by media and fans. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards, but he did not throw a touchdown pass and only seven completions were to wide receivers. Five of those catches were by Willie Snead IV (51 yards), one to Crabtree (seven yards) and one to John Brown (23 yards). Seven different Ravens recorded a carry while six had a catch.
The Ravens’ dynamic rushing attack led by Gus Edwards (17 carries, 115 yards) and Jackson (27 carries, 117 yards) kept Jackson out of third-and-long situations and allowed the Ravens to control the clock. Now it’s a matter of getting Jackson to run a little less, while getting the football to the wide receivers a little more.
Jackson emphasized that he was committed to using his weapons and his arm, while not relying so much on his legs.
“I was like, ‘I ran 27 times?’ I was shocked myself,” Jackson said. “I was ticked off. Crabtree was telling me, ‘You good?’ And I’m like, ‘No man, I have to throw you the ball.’ I need to get these guys the ball. I don’t want them to think I’m just out here and, ‘Oh, he’s going to run every time he gets a chance.’
“My eyes are always up the field. I have to get those guys the ball because they’re helping me out. They’re not out there to block – that’s not their job. Their job is to catch the ball [and] help us win games. That’s my job to get the ball to them. Yes, I was mad about that.”
Snead was also mad at one point during Sunday’s game and admitted that he got into a heated sideline discussion with Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. While not going into details, Snead said he is passionate about winning and wants to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. It’s not about stats or targets. It’s about winning.
“It was just a misunderstanding on the sideline,” Snead said. “Emotions came out. Me and Marty are good. We love each other. I respect him as a coach, a man, a play-caller. This is a business where we’re all competitors and we want to win. Emotions come out sometimes that we have to be able to control. We left that in the last game. This is a brand new week.
“Our offense is evolving. We had never been in there with Lamar. If he gets the start this week, I think guys will be a little more settled in. At the end of day, we won the game. We’re just all competitors in the receiving room. We all want to contribute as much as we can.”
Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden has been pouring over tape of Jackson, and came away impressed with his throwing ability. The Raiders (2-8) have been hurt by big plays this season, and knows Jackson is capable of making them.
"You don’t know what he’s going to do, but you do know what he’s capable of doing, and it’s scary," Gruden said during a conference call.
“You go through his Louisville tape. He won the Heisman trophy because of his dual-threat ability. He can throw. The college tape proves it. He threw it pretty well at times in the preseason. You have to prepare for Lamar Jackson, the complete body of work that he put on tape at Louisville, or you’re making a big mistake.”
Jackson’s performance gave the Raiders a full game of film to study, and they will undoubtedly use some tactics Sunday to try and reduce Jackson’s effectiveness as a runner. If that happens, Jackson says he is ready to counter.
“Hopefully I’m going to start throwing the ball more,” Jackson said. “The game plan is coming up and we’re going to be throwing the ball. They’re going to see.”
Even before Joe Flacco’s hip injury, opponents had committed to taking Brown away from the Ravens as a deep threat. But Brown wasn’t complaining about being targeted just once Sunday.
“We got the win, and he did a great job for his first start,” Brown said. “We have to be patient and the time will come.”
On Brown’s one catch Sunday, Jackson and Brown collaborated to make a superb play. Jackson eluded Cincinnati’s pass rush and bought extra time to throw, allowing Brown to shake his defender. That kind of improvisation could lead to big plays in the future, especially once the wide receivers gain more familiarity with Jackson’s game.
“He can move around in the pocket and make guys miss, and we just extend plays and find the open hole,” Brown said. “No, I haven’t played with a quarterback that runs that much. But at the end of the day, that’s his style of play, and he’s making the plays and everybody is happy with it.”
On Sunday, Crabtree will be facing the Raiders, the team he played with for three seasons before signing with Baltimore. But Crabtree isn’t focusing on the past. He is focusing on the present with Jackson, as the receivers try to help a rookie quarterback use his talents to help the Ravens win.
“I’m just going to work with Lamar,” Crabtree said. “I’m at his disposal. Whatever he needs from me, I’m just going to do.”