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Lamar Jackson's Next Test? A Raucous Road Environment


The Ravens' indoor bubble was thumping Wednesday, turning the Under Armour Performance Center into a full-blown concert venue during practice. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson could make his first NFL road start Sunday in Atlanta in a noise-trapping dome that's known for getting loud.

Jackson put his electric running ability on display in his first start. He showed off his abilities as a passer in his second. Now his next challenge will be doing it all in a raucous road environment.

Jackson has handled the procedural parts of playing quarterback – relaying the play calls, making checks at the line of scrimmage, etc. – well so far, but both of his two starts have been in the friendly, hushed confines of M&T Bank Stadium. Head Coach John Harbaugh said there will "definitely" be another level to Jackson's preparation this week.

"There is a new set of issues with playing on the road that will be another level, absolutely," Harbaugh said.

"Crowd noise, cadence, snap counts, communication, even the earphone and getting the plays and things like that, being prepared if that is a problem. All those things will be … yes, it will be a new level. It will be a challenge for all of us. But, he's up to it. Looking forward to seeing how he does."

Jackson has consistently said throughout the summer and season that calling the plays in the huddle has been the hardest part of his transition to the NFL. He had one-word play-calls in college at Louisville, and practiced calling the much longer plays in the mirror once he came to Baltimore.

After Sunday's game, Ravens running back Ty Montgomery told Sports Illustrated that Jackson's Florida twang can make him hard to understand at times, but "we all eventually understand what he's trying to say." It's going to get harder now.

So what does Jackson expect?

"I don't really know," he said. "Just for me going out there, getting another game, I don't really know what I'm getting myself into. I have to wait to see what Atlanta brings us."

It's not like Jackson hasn't played in big, charged-up stadiums before. He played big-time college football games at Florida State, at Clemson and others. He played in three bowl games. It's not like big crowds are going to rattle him.

"I love road games," Jackson said. "Just to try make the crowd turn to our [side], make it be like our home environment. … I just want to make it my home, my team's home."

Jackson said he has called audibles and change protections at the line of scrimmage Sunday against the Raiders, and he feels comfortable doing it. Doing those communications will be different if his linemen and weapons can't hear him, however.

The Ravens had to burn a timeout and take a delay of game penalty last week when they didn't have the play-call in and communicated quickly enough. Jackson has handled it all well, but there have been some hiccups that he's overcome.

Jackson said part of practice will be to see how the offense responds to the extra noise pumped in, "see if it distracts us or not, so we'll see." His teammates don't think it will be a problem.

"Lamar's a true ball player. He can control it," wide receiver John Brown said. "I know he'll handle it well, so we'll just let him be him."

"It's not going to get more hostile than what he's had here," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs added. "You don't get to see how we treat him at practice, but he's been preparing for hostile environments. We'll try and tone it up a little bit more for him."

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