Lamar Jackson Puts on a Show (With His Arm) in Opener

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As the new Ravens team records were read aloud in a jubilant postgame locker room in Miami, the biggest cheer, by far, came for the one that might finally silence the noise outside the locker room – at least for now.

Listen to this one. Lamar Jackson posted a perfect quarterback passer rating – 158.3 – in his 2019 debut.

“Not bad for a ‘running back,’” Jackson said with a grin, citing the haters’ refrain.

Any more doubts about Jackson’s ability to throw? Yeah, those won’t be so loud after his five-touchdown performance in Sunday’s 59-10 season-opening blowout in Miami.

Jackson completed 17 of 20 passing attempts for 324 yards, the five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He ran just three times for six yards.

Jackson said he wanted to put on a show in his debut, not far from where he grew up in Pompano Beach, Fla. He was perhaps the best show in the entire NFL in Week 1.

“I’ve been telling you all he’s special,” running back Mark Ingram II said. “The sky’s the limit for him. He has all the tools to be great. We just have to help make his job easier.”

Jackson was at the center of the NFL’s 24-hour debate frenzy this offseason. After leading the Ravens to a 6-1 finish and playoff appearance last season, he played his worst game in the wild-card playoffs against the Los Angeles Chargers. That left many pundits questioning Jackson’s viability when teams forced him to throw.

The talk in Miami before the game started was, not surprisingly, to force Jackson to throw. Be careful what you wish for.

“Everybody on this team knows he can do that, but the league is going to take notice,” tight end Mark Andrews said.

Asked in the leadup to the game what he hoped fans would be saying after the season opener, Jackson said, “Hopefully that it’s the best offense they’ve ever seen.”

Best ever? That’s up for debate. There will be a lot of talk this week about how much Sunday’s performance can be credited to the strength of Jackson and the Ravens offense versus the weakness of the rebuilding Dolphins. Jackson will face tougher tests as this season continues, but there should be no doubting Jackson’s improvement and trajectory.

“He’s definitely better,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He was a rookie last year. He didn’t practice much throughout the course of the year. So he’s had a chance to be with the No. 1 offense on a daily basis and he did a great job with it.”

Jackson showed this kind of development in the preseason, yet it was still a juking, hurdling run in the preseason that grabbed the most attention. Now it will finally be his arm, right?

“Probably not,” Jackson said.

But Jackson didn’t spend much time playing the I-told-you-so game in his postgame press conference. He instead turned the focus to the blockers in front of him and weapons around him.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” he said when asked about his perfect quarterback rating. “I just like to win. We’ve got to move on now. We can’t dwell on that win. It’s the first game.”

The touchdown passes will get the attention, but Jackson’s accuracy shouldn’t be overlooked. He didn’t have an incompletion until there was just three minutes, 31 seconds left in the first half – connecting on nine straight to start the game.

Jackson’s 58.2 completion percentage as a rookie got a lot of ink this offseason. He didn’t complete more than 14 passes and he topped 200 passing yards just once. There’s still room to grow, of course, but Jackson has come a long way with his mechanics and precision.

Jackson’s first touchdown pass was on a slant to rookie Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who took it the rest of the way – 47 yards – to the end zone. Jackson put the ball in the perfect spot to allow the speedster to catch it in stride despite tight coverage.

Jackson’s second touchdown pass came on a bomb once again to his rookie first-round pick. Well protected, Jackson bounced in the pocket, then effortlessly lofted the pass 47 yards to hit Brown, again, in stride. Brown couldn’t be caught on an 83-yard score.

His third was another vertical strike, this time to Willie Snead IV – one of the last guys the Dolphins would expect to go deep. Jackson dropped it right in Snead’s basket for a 33-yard score.

Jackson’s fourth touchdown pass certainly wasn’t out of the textbook. Starting at the 5-yard line, Jackson faded backwards away from pressure and lofted a pass from the 22-yard line off his back leg. It floated perfectly into the waiting hands of rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin in the back of the end zone.

Jackson’s day ended after three quarters as the Ravens had a massive lead, allowing Robert Griffin III to take over. Meanwhile, Jackson spent the rest of the day soaking up the Florida sun he grew up in, imagining days like this.

Head Coach John Harbaugh, said he was “really happy” for Jackson to have that kind of performance.

“He’s worked really hard,” said Harbaugh, who added that he was most impressed with Jackson’s poise under pressure when faced with a barrage of all-out blitzes. “I think he’s only going to continue to improve because he wants to work at it.”

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