Lamar Jackson, Ravens Break Down His First NFL Game


Lamar Jackson was the first player out of the tunnel as the Ravens made their way onto the Tom Benson Hall of Fame field Thursday night.

From that point on, all eyes were on the first-round pick in his NFL debut.

Jackson played the entire second half of Baltimore's 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game, and he showed flashes of the playmaking ability that the Ravens coveted when they traded up to get him in April's draft.

"Everybody kind of has these expectations that they're going to see fireworks," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he ran around and he played well."

Jackson finished the game 4-of-10 passing for 33 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran eight times for 25 yards. The offense put up one score with Jackson at the helm, but the unit also had the turnover and punted five times.

"It wasn't what I expected," Jackson said. "I felt like I should have had more touchdowns out there, me and my unit. That's it. Still room for improvement for us. We're just still learning each and every week."

Jackson was the third quarterback to enter the game. Robert Griffin III got the start and Josh Woodrum played the final two series of the first half. Starter Joe Flacco, along with several other veterans, didn't play in the opener.

The Ravens wanted to see what Jackson could do with an entire half of work, and his performance was indicative of a rookie.

He moved the offense 36 yards down the field on the touchdown drive before finding fellow first-round pick Hayden Hurst in the end zone for an 8-yard score.

But his pass intended for fellow rookie Jaleel Scott on a deep out-route got picked off when the defender jumped route. Jackson also held the ball too long at times and had to take sacks when he was unable to wiggle free from pressure.

"I hate interceptions," Jackson said. "But you have to move on to the next play, the next drive. I was hoping to score more than that once, but it's all good. We won, so that's all that matters."

Jackson also learned about the speed of the NFL game. He had the ability to run away from just about everyone at the college level, but beating linebackers to the outside isn't quite as easy in the pros.

On one of his scrambles outside the pocket, Jackson took an unexpected hit along the sidelines when he thought he had the defender beat.

"You can't jog," Jackson said. "I was like shocked. I was like, 'Ah man, he tackled me.' You got to run."

A top development that the coaches wanted to see from Jackson was his ability to manage the offense. Learning an NFL system and calling the plays has been a big transition for Jackson compared to what he did in his college career at Louisville, and he's even been practicing his play calling in the mirror at home.

Thursday was his first chance to step into the huddle in an NFL game atmosphere and he passed the test.

"The first task that we gave him was to operate the offense, and he did," Harbaugh said. "He got the plays called. He got snap counts off. That stuff gets taken for granted. … As a rookie quarterback out there for the first time handling the offense, I thought he did a very good job."

Jackson certainly still has work to do and his game is a work in progress, but the Ravens are encouraged by what the talented young quarterback showed them in Canton.

"I think there are clearly great things ahead for him," Harbaugh said.

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