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Late for Work: Lamar Jackson Predicted to Improve Even After Winning His Second MVP

QB Lamar Jackson
QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson Predicted to Improve Even After Winning His Second MVP

There aren't many steps to climb after winning a second MVP, the No. 1 seed in the AFC, hosting the AFC Championship game and breaking a personal best for single-season yards thrown by more than 500, but CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell believes there's more to come from Jackson. Podell predicted which quarterbacks will improve or regress in 2024, and Podell put the Ravens' signal caller into his "most likely to improve" category.

"[Jackson's] 24 touchdown passes were only the third most of his career, a total that was highlighted by him becoming the third NFL MVP quarterback since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger without a 1,000-yard rusher or a 1,000-yard receiver," Podell wrote. "The other two were Pro Football Hall of Famers Brett Favre (1996) and John Elway (1987).

"There's a good chance Jackson could have both a 1,000-yard rusher and a pass-catcher with 1,000 receiving yards in 2024. Baltimore signed four-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry in free agency this offseason, a back whose 1,167 rushing yards ranked as the second most in the entire NFL in 2023. Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews is set to return healthy in 2024 after a Week 11 ankle injury against the Cincinnati Bengals derailed his 2023 season. The presence of those two should increase Jackson's production in 2024."

Podell's isn't alone in expecting growth for Jackson. Harbaugh joined "The Adam Jones Podcast" last week and was asked where there can be growth from a player who has achieved so much already.

"From a pure football standpoint, there's always room for growth. And when you step back and you lean into that, you see there are massive opportunities for growth," Harbaugh said. "That's just what a growth mindset is. And so, the opportunity is what we're trying to do with the offense. The throws that he can make. Reactions that he can make. Uncovering a defense. All those types of things that go into it with playing quarterback."

Pundit Predicts Losing Record Through Week 5; Estimates 10 or Fewer Wins

The Ravens have a raucous start to the 2024 NFL season, facing the reigning Super Bowl champs, and three playoff expectants. Enough so that The Athletic's Vic Tafur is predicting the Ravens to have a losing record by Week 5.

"They open at the Chiefs, vs. the Raiders, at the Cowboys, vs. the Bills and at the Bengals, so it's hard to see all the new pieces coming together and starting with a 3-2 record," Tafur wrote.

Losing three games early in the season isn't common for the Ravens. Since the start of Head Coach John Harbaugh's tenure, the Ravens are 35-18 in the month of September. Only twice in the Harbaugh era have the Ravens gone 2-3 or worse (2008, 2015). And since quarterback Lamar Jackson became the starter, they've never been under 3-2 after Week 5.

But stranger than Tafur's Week 5 prediction is his reasoning. According to Tafur, the Ravens are rebuilding far more than just the offensive line.

"We've covered how the Ravens will have a little more bounce to their step thanks to the schedule-makers," Tafur wrote. "But they will need it, as they have more work to do, replacing most of their offensive line, linebackers and entire secondary."

The Ravens are rebuilding their offensive line. But their linebacker unit involves replacing Patrick Queen with expectant up-and-comer Trenton Simpson and the only big loss at outside linebacker is Jadeveon Clowney. Their entire secondary unit isn't being replaced, with all starters from 2023 returning.

Tafur's prediction included estimating the Ravens to win fewer than 11.5 games in 2024 after winning 13 last season.

Pundit Proclaims Ravens' Backup Quarterback Situation Is Concerning; Suggests Trade for Trey Lance

The Ravens enter the 2024 season with their backup quarterback situation decided. After drafting quarterback Devin Leary, Harbaugh said Josh Johnson will be their backup quarterback while they develop Leary. But CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin believes their backup quarterback situation is "quietly concerning."

"Johnson deserves props for his stamina, entering Year 17 with his record 14th different team, but at 38, with only two passes thrown in the last two seasons, he's not exactly a high-upside insurance plan for the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson," Benjamin wrote.

His suggested remedy? Trading for former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance.

"Lance, meanwhile, is a relative unknown due to his injury-stricken start with the San Francisco 49ers, but his youth (24) and rushing ability are pluses, and the Dallas Cowboys have yet to use him behind Dak Prescott, likely lowering his price tag," Benjamin wrote.

Benjamin's recommended fix doesn't ring true if it stands on recent in-game reps. Lance's last in-game action was with the San Francisco 49ers in September 2022, meaning it would be two years since he had game action by the beginning of the season. And in the five quarters Lance did play in 2022, he went 15-of-31 passing for 194 yards and an interception. In fact, Johnson played in a game more recently than Lance, as he stepped in for the 49ers later that season.

Bringing in Lance would be a move unlikely to thrust him into the backup quarterback role. Similar to Leary, it would be to nurture Lance's potential and see what comes next.

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