How Can Lamar Jackson See the Field This Season?
The truth is, the less rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson sees the field this season, the better off the Ravens are.
That’s because not seeing him out there would mean the Ravens are thriving under starter Joe Flacco, and Jackson would have time to develop his NFL game before being thrust into the spotlight.
That said, even though Flacco is the clear starting signal caller – both the Ravens’ words and offseason moves reinforced that fact – one can’t help but wonder whether it’s smart to have perhaps the most athletic and electrifying player on the Ravens roster sit on the bench the entire year.
ESPN pinpointed the biggest post-draft question for all 32 teams, and getting Jackson the field was the big kahuna for Baltimore.
“Team officials have been vague on whether Jackson will see any game action,” the website wrote. “When Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was the playcaller in Philadelphia, he devised special packages for Michael Vick when he wasn't the starter.”
Let’s take a look at ways the Ravens could get Jackson involved, even while Flacco continues to be the starter, and whether they would be smart ideas.
Head Coach John Harbaugh is known for his special teams mind, and he could easily get Jackson in some creative packages. Eeeeh, you’d have to be careful about making the rookie, say, a punt or kick returner because he’ll be an open target for high-speed defenders waiting to light him up. Jackson would threaten to score every time he touched the ball, but is the risk too high for injury? Jackson said Friday that he’s never returned kicks or punts.
This is a potentially controversial suggestion after all the hubbub at the NFL Scouting Combine. Jackson was asked to run receiver routes for scouts in Indianapolis, but declined, insisting that he is “strictly” a quarterback. The Ravens have backed up that notion several times, both before and after the draft.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters at the Combine that Jackson was a quarterback on his draft board, and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg unambiguously said over the weekend that Jackson “is a quarterback – done.” Mornhinweg also commented, however, that “he could do a lot of different things in athletics in general” because he’s so uniquely talented.
“I know [Jackson] said, ‘I don’t want to be drafted as a receiver,’ but now that he’s on a team, he’s a first-round pick, would that not be a great way to utilize him while he waits?” asked Peter Schrager in the “Good Morning Football” (GMF) video below.
The GMF crew also made the point that football players know they are more indispensable if they can contribute in a variety of ways. Jackson isn’t going anywhere anytime soon regardless.
Of course, if the Ravens do attempt to use Jackson as a receiver, don’t expect it to be a regular thing. Maybe a little trickery or decoy formations here and there throughout the season, but Jackson won’t line up out wide on a regular basis.
“I would say use him. Go out there on offense, do gadget, do Wildcat, play wide receiver, even if you put him all the way out wide and Joe Flacco at quarterback and throw the opposite way because the whole defense will be looking at [Jackson],” GMF’s Nate Burleson said.
Wildcat or gadget plays?
This option appears to be the most likely, even though Flacco wasn’t a big fan of the formation in 2013 when the Ravens ran it a handful of times with then-backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Flacco said it was "good and fun for a little bit, but that's about it."
Perhaps he’d be more open to the idea now that Jackson is on the roster. Frequently interchanging quarterbacks could throw off Flacco’s rhythm, but that could be worked out on a limited basis if the Ravens want to get their biggest offensive playmaker in Jackson on the field.
“All it takes is one long run or a scamper around the field where defenders are tackling thin air for defenses to be wary of his presence on a play,” wrote Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens. “That’s when Baltimore can use him as a decoy or run plays designed to get him the football to throw. Just imagine something like the Wildcat formation with Jackson out there and you’ll be honing in on what that could mean for the offense and opposing defenses.”
Wherever or however the Ravens do it, getting Jackson on the field, on a limited basis, wouldn’t be terrible. In addition to throwing defenses off with his presence, just being on the field for an NFL game would be beneficial to Jackson’s development.
“Every time he throws or runs the ball, Baltimore will be getting him more snaps, lowering his anxiety levels and allow them to work on his football IQ and instincts at the same time,” Stevens wrote. “That should speed along his progress and make him a better starter when the time comes.
“Jackson isn’t a toy, but for the next year or two, Baltimore would be wise to get his play-making ability in one way or another. That should mean he sees the field a lot sooner than everyone thinks, even if he’s not going to be the starter.”
C.J. Mosley Is the 98th Best Player in the NFL? That’s Silly
The NFL Network began revealing its Top 100 Players of 2018 last night, and the complaints are already pouring in.
That’s because Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was ranked No. 98 despite making his third Pro Bowl in four seasons last year.
Since Mosley entered the league in 2014, he and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly are the only NFL defenders to post at least 450 tackles, five interceptions and five sacks. He’s a foundational rock in the middle of the Ravens’ highly-touted defense.
At least Mosley got back into the Top 100 after missing out last year. He was No. 94 on the 2015 list after going to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But even though he’s cracked the list again, a former teammate and even a Steelers rival know he’s way too low.
Winners and Losers of Ravens Draft
The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec named five winners and losers of the Ravens draft. You can check out all 10 here, and I’ve highlighted one from each group below.
Winner: Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg “The Ravens offensive coordinator has been oft-criticized and he knows that comes with the territory. However, the Ravens haven’t exactly had standout personnel on the offensive side of the ball the past couple of years. But after the Ravens signed three veteran receivers in free agency, they added more offensive pieces in the draft. In Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, the Ravens have two tight ends that can stretch the field and make plays in traffic. The draft also yielded a potential starting right tackle and two more receivers with upside. Mornhinweg and Quarterbacks Coach James Urban also got a young and talented quarterback to groom behind starter Joe Flacco. The Ravens will need a better performance from Mornhinweg as the play caller in 2018, but he at least has a more representative offense to work with now.”
Loser: Quarterback Robert Griffin III III “There are two ways of looking at this: The first is that the Ravens will want Griffin, a former first-round quarterback, around all season to help mentor Jackson. Griffin obviously plays a much similar style to Jackson than Flacco does. The second is that the Ravens haven’t kept three quarterbacks on their regular-season opening roster since 2009. The latter doesn’t bode well for Griffin, whose contract isn’t significant enough to guarantee a roster spot. If the Ravens deem this a full developmental year for Jackson and don’t want to have to play him, Griffin will be on the team. However, if Jackson makes steady progress through offseason activities and the coaches feel he’s ready to go, the organization might feel that keeping three quarterbacks isn’t the best use of roster space.”
Ravens Smart Not to Be Dissuaded by Orlando Brown Jr. Combine Workouts
We won’t know for sure until we see how their NFL careers turn out, but right now it’s a toss-up between Jackson and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. for the Ravens’ best value pick.
If Jackson turns out to be the next successful franchise quarterback, getting him at No. 32 is a steal.
And if Brown becomes a multi-year starter for the Ravens, which isn’t a stretch, getting him in the third round would be a massive bargain, especially considering he was originally projected to the Ravens at No. 16 before turning in poor numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
If you ask The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker, the Ravens were smart not too read too much into his slow 40 time and low reps on the bench press.
“The Ravens ignored the noise and recognized that with the 83rd overall pick, they could snag their right tackle of the future,” Walker wrote. “They saw the forest instead of dwelling on the trees.
“Brown was a consistently excellent player at a big-time program. He’s a giant man with a mean streak who doesn’t let defenders get around him easily. Will he need to work himself into optimal shape to deal with NFL athletes? Sure. But you could see the affection in Newsome’s eyes as he discussed ‘Lil Zeus’ on Friday night. He believes Brown is deeply invested in doing what he can to leave his own Ravens legacy. You combine that with his college track record and the team’s need at tackle, and it’s an appealing package in the third round.”