Lamar Jackson and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown share a close bond, riding to home games together, working out in the offseason together, part of a relationship that began during their South Florida youth.
Their connection on the field is also an important part of Baltimore's offense. But Brown's big-play potential is something the Ravens want to unlock more consistently this season as they prepare for a Week 9 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.
Brown was targeted a season-low two times during Sunday's loss 28-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he reacted on social media by posting a tweet which read, "What's the point of having souljas when you never use them (Never!!)."
He deleted the post a short time later, but Jackson understood if Brown was frustrated.
"For sure, that's one of our key players to our offense," Jackson said. "We want to get him the ball, the easiest way, the fastest way we can. We just go to do a better job of getting it to him. We've got to do better at that and we'll be fine."
Brown leads the Ravens in targets (44), receptions (27) and receiving yards (397). But like everyone, he wants to help the team more.
Baltimore enters the Colts game ranked 31st in the NFL in passing offense, averaging fewer passing yards per game (179.9) than any team except the New York Jets. The Ravens expect to be better than that, led by an MVP quarterback in Jackson, a deep threat like Brown, and a Pro Bowl tight end in Mark Andrews.
Jackson is coming off one of his most exasperating games, turning the ball over four times against Pittsburgh with two fumbles and two interceptions. It's difficult to win any game with four turnovers, and Jackson knows he must do a better job protecting the ball.
"I get over it but it's going to always be on my mind because we lost that game and I hate having turnovers," Jackson said. "But you have to move on. Just like during the game, if I have a turnover I keep it going, go on to the next drive. I can't dwell on it, I have to move forward. That's what I'm doing now. The game is over with."
Jackson did have some strong moments in the passing game, particularly when his target was Willie Snead IV, who had a season-high five catches for 106 yards.
"I'm used to seeing that from Willie," Jackson said. "We do it all the time in practice. I'm glad he did it against the Steelers, a great defensive team. We've just got to get all of our guys involved. Just got to keep stacking and building."
The goal is for the Ravens to move the ball consistently, regardless of who they are playing or how they are defended. If teams want to stack the box and focus on suffocating their running game, deep shots to Brown is one way to take advantage. If secondaries shade their coverage toward Brown, Jackson has a host of targets who can work other routes successfully in Andrews, Snead, tight end Nick Boyle and rookie wide receiver Devin Duvernay.
The Ravens also have the possibility of activating veteran Dez Bryant to the 53-man roster. Bryant signed last week but sat out versus the Steelers. Jackson said Bryant has also looked impressive.
"He's a great route runner, strong hands, he's dialed into the playbook," Jackson said. "He's always asking questions. He wants to compete. I just can't wait until he can be out there on Sundays and full practices with us."
Coming off his spectacular 2019 season, Jackson isn't putting up MVP stats in 2020 (12 touchdown passes, four interceptions, 60.5 percent completion percentage, 94.3 passer rating), but he doesn't care much about individual awards. The Ravens are 5-2, and his goal is to lead them to a Super Bowl.
The offense moved the ball effectively for long stretches against the Steelers, and that is something Jackson wants to build on. This isn't a time when Jackson believes his teammates need him to be more vocal. He is focused on leading them with his play.
"Our guys are not down," Jackson said. "Our guys came into work, worked their tail off. I think we'll be fine, but if they need me to say something I will. I'm not really a vocal leader. I lead by example. But if they need me to, I will."