Lamar Jackson says he's been given the keys to the offense by new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken. Get ready for an interesting ride.
Jackson's new contract extension, the hiring of Monken, and the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. were among the storylines that kept the Ravens in the headlines throughout the offseason. It's the start of a new offensive era for Baltimore, but Jackson remains the centerpiece.
Here's where things stand now:
Jackson's performance is crucial.
When Jackson was the unanimous MVP in 2019, the Ravens finished with the best record in franchise history (14-2) and Jackson was the heartbeat off the offense. He led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and completed a career-high 66.1% of his tosses while throwing just six interceptions. He also set the single season rushing record by a quarterback (1,206 yards), making him the game's most dominant dual threat.
Jackson's 49-21 record as a starting quarterback amplifies his importance to the team's success. When he's playing at a high level, the Ravens have always been difficult to beat.
Heading into his sixth season at age 26, Jackson is entering a pivotal stage of his career – still young, but with the experience gleaned from successes and disappointments. Monken directed the league's top passing offense in 2018 when he was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator, and his dynamic and diverse offenses at Georgia helped the Bulldogs win two straight national championships.
Will Monken + Jackson = offensive fireworks? The Ravens are banking on them bringing out the best in each other.
Many things look promising.
Baltimore went all-in during the offseason to upgrade its passing offense. They signed wide receivers Beckham and Nelson Agholor in free agency and drafted wide receiver Zay Flowers in the first round. It's the deepest wide receiver group Jackson has ever worked with, and the Ravens also have an impressive tight end group led by All-Pro Mark Andrews.
Jackson has sounded enthusiastic about the potential of the passing attack throughout OTAs and minicamp. He already has a friendship with Beckham, as they plan to work out together before training camp. Likewise, Jackson and Flowers have already met up for workouts in Florida.
It will be intriguing to see how Jackson's running ability is used in Monken's offense. Monken said he wants to take some off Jackson's plate, but still utilize his unique skillset.
Having more weapons on the perimeter could force defenses to take some of their attention away from Jackson, creating wider running lanes for him to exploit. Monken mixed it up at Georgia and it was hard to predict whether the ball would end up in the hands of the quarterback, running backs, tight ends, or receivers from play-to-play. He has the weapons to be just as diverse, if not more, in Baltimore.
"There's nothing like having talent," Monken said. "There's only one football still. But utilizing multiple personnel groups and trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together – utilizing their skillset when you can get the best matchups… I'm excited to work with them. We still haven't put the pads on yet, but from what I've seen, with adding the wide receivers that we have and the tight ends that have been here, it's an exciting time."
Some things must still be proven.
Jackson has longed for an offense that would allow him more freedom to make changes at the line of scrimmage and to pass more aggressively downfield. Now he has it, and the onus is on him to flourish in it.
Jackson must be more consistent capitalizing on deep throws when his targets gain an advantage.
If Jackson changes more protections and adjusts more routes at the line of scrimmage, he'll also have more responsibility to get the Ravens into the right looks. Meanwhile, the Ravens haven't had all of their expected starters practicing together yet, and learning the offense is still a work in progress. Will the Ravens be in sync with the new offensive system by Week 1 and catch opponents off guard as they did in 2019? Or will there be growing pains that cost them early in the season?
It's a challenge that Jackson is looking forward to. He found his comfort level quickly when the Ravens changed offensive coordinators in 2019 and plans to do the same with Monken.
"G-Ro [Greg Roman]'s offense, it didn't take that long," Jackson said. "I believe 2019, that's when he got the OC job, and I feel like we went 14-2. The sky [is] the limit with this offense. We're going to see."