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Lamar Jackson Makes Debut as New Wrinkle in Ravens Offense

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The Ravens did not take long to use Lamar Jackson in Week 1.

Jackson was part of the Ravens’ opening touchdown drive and played five snaps during the first half, immediately becoming a new offensive wrinkle that opponents must worry about.

Before the Ravens routed the Buffalo Bills, 47-3, there was much pregame speculation on how many snaps Jackson would get, and how early he would be used. The message was sent quickly to the Buffalo Bills and to all future Ravens opponents. Jackson is on the team to be a playmaker, not just a decoy or a backup to quarterback Joe Flacco.

“We wanted to establish him as a threat quickly, not as a possible threat,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We wanted him to go out there and make plays and generate plays for us. The whole idea is to generate offense. I guess a side benefit of it is that people have to prepare for certain things. Of course, that’s part of it. But really the idea is to move the football and create plays, and like we said from the beginning, use all weapons.”

On the Ravens’ first series, Jackson lined up at wide receiver and went into motion on his first play as a Raven. Joe Flacco faked a handoff to Jackson, then handed the ball to Alex Collins. The Bills were influenced by the threat of Jackson taking the handoff, and the misdirection helped Collins find a soft spot in the Bills’ defense for a 14-yard gain. It was called back because of a holding penalty, however.

That was the Ravens’ most successful first-half play with Jackson on the field. Here’s a look at other ways Jackson was used during the first half:

  • With the Ravens at the Bills’ 15-yard line later in the opening drive, Jackson lined up under center with Flacco at wide receiver. Jackson was surrounded while attempting to run and stopped for no gain. However, it showed Baltimore’s desire to use Jackson in the red zone and Jackson playing quarterback for one play did not break Flacco’s rhythm. The Ravens scored three plays later, on an 8-yard run by Collins.
  • In the second quarter, Jackson lined up at wide receiver and took the ball on a designed reverse. Quickly met by a Bills defender, Jackson reversed field and looked downfield for an open target. Willie Snead IV was open, but Jackson overthrew him for an incompletion.
  • That was the last time Jackson touched the ball in the first half. He lined up at wide receiver again on his fourth play and fifth plays, but Flacco did not look Jackson’s way. In one instance, he was again used as a decoy on a jet sweep handoff.

It was noteworthy that Jackson only played one snap at quarterback in the first half. Flacco was throwing the football well and the offense was moving. Jackson is simply an addition to the Ravens’ offense, not a focal point.

Once the Ravens were comfortably ahead in the second half, Jackson took over for Flacco in the third quarter at quarterback and finished the game, completing 1-of-4 passes for 24 yards, and rushing seven times for 39 yards.

What did Jackson think of his regular season debut?

“It felt pretty cool, cold and rainy actually,” Jackson said. “We got the victory. We opened things up with some of the motion I was doing. Had the defense guessing. They never know what’s going to happen. Keep the defense guessing.”

Jackson was not totally happy with his quarterback play in the second half, but getting reps in a regular-season game could help him down the road.

“I went out there very cold,” Jackson said. “But I need to complete some more passes.”

How much Jackson will play from week to week remains uncertain, and that works to the Ravens’ advantage. Opponents must prepare for Jackson, and Flacco seems comfortable knowing that packages for Jackson will be part of the game plan. As the season progresses and Jackson becomes more comfortable, the Ravens expect bigger plays from Jackson to follow.

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