What to Make of Flacco & Jackson Not Talking Yet (Not Much)
At the conclusion of Saturday’s rookie minicamp practice, quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked whether he’s gotten a chance to talk with Joe Flacco yet.
“No, I haven’t,” Jackson replied.
Several local media reporters tweeted his response, but didn’t make a big deal of it. As of this morning, none determined it headline-worthy (that I saw). However, national writers picked up on those tweets and turned them into headlines, including ProFootballTalk, Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports.
Zrebiec is right. How a franchise quarterback reacts to an organization using a first-round draft pick on, presumably, the next franchise quarterback is news. The problem is Flacco hasn’t spoken for himself yet, and it’s incumbent upon the media to resist the temptation to create its own narrative until he does.
To be clear, Zrebiec has not created his own narrative. He stated a fact. But national bloggers are creating a narrative.
“Flacco hasn't given an interview since the Ravens selected Jackson, and it's starting to seem like he may not [be] thrilled with the team's choice,” wrote CBS Sports’ John Breech. “First, there was the draft event last Saturday where he shot down reporters who were trying to get his reaction to the Jackson pick. That was interesting, if only because Flacco almost never passes on an opportunity to talk to the media.”
Huh? That makes it seem like Flacco loves and craves the limelight. A more accurate description would be that he doesn’t typically dodge the media and almost always answers tough questions.
The context that continues to get lost is that the creators of Draft Fest directed Flacco away from reporters, per The Baltimore Sun. They booked him weeks in advance for the event and appeared intent on making sure they used their rare time with him to the fullest extent. He was there to do a fun Q&A with kids and mingle with fans, not answer reporters’ questions.
More media narrative …
“Lamar Jackson receiving warm reception from Ravens, except maybe Joe Flacco,” a Yahoo! Sports headline read.
Blogger Jack Baer wrote: “Jackson has been a Raven for about a week, so it might be best to wait some time before sounding the controversy alarm. But each day of silence is another day the situation looks a little frostier.”
That headline is pitting Flacco, and Flacco alone, against Jackson. And then Baer gives a “tick-tock” timeline on Flacco, as if to say he better talk to Jackson sooner than later, and the media better be told about it, or else this “frosty” narrative will continue.
Never mind that Jackson implied he hasn’t spoken to Robert Griffin III III either. Never mind that there’s no evidence Flacco has ever reached out to rookies within 10 days of the draft (or that anyone ever cared whether he did).
“Yes, Flacco seems to be far closer to Ben Roethlisberger than Josh McCown on the Rookie Quarterback Welcome Wagon Meter,” wrote ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio.
That’s not fair.
Roethlisberger publicly questioned the Steelers front office’s decision to draft quarterback Mason Rudolph. To put Flacco in (or near) that category is silly. He’d have to put himself there with his own words.
"I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now," Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan Friday. "Nothing against Mason; I think he's a great football player. I don't know him personally, but I'm sure he's a great kid. I just don't know how backing up or being a third [string] -- well, who knows where he's going to fall on the depth chart -- helps us win now.”
Maybe when Flacco speaks, he’ll question the Ravens’ decision too. It’s possible, but doubtful, given his history, including not calling out his receivers when they drop passes or run wrong routes.
I’m not suggesting Flacco was celebrating the drafting of Jackson, but let the guy speak for himself on his own timeline. Until then, the 11-year veteran has earned the benefit of the doubt ...
Peter King: Flacco Has Gotten the Message
While we don’t know how Flacco will respond to Jackson’s presence, according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Flacco “has gotten the message.”
“That’s what I hear,” King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column. “And he’s too smart not to have gotten it. Flacco, 33, understands the trade-up to pick of Jackson means the Ravens have noticed his sub-.500 record and 82.4 passer rating in the past three years, regardless how much is his fault. The quarterback always takes major blame when an offense is lousy, and Baltimore’s has been bad—29th, 12th and 29th in passing yards in the past three seasons.”
King noted another reason for drafting Jackson, and it has more to do with injecting the Baltimore fan base with a jolt of excitement. While Flacco is a part of a lack of excitement, there’s a lot more to it.
“The Ravens are a boring offense,” King wrote. “They excite no one. They’re inefficient – and you can’t blame only Flacco, because the receiving group has been consistently disappointing too. When I saw this pick, I said I bet this is about more than dissatisfaction with Flacco. It’s about making the team exciting again in a market that has grown blasé, and throwing some change-ups with an electric quarterback. Flacco will get the first shot, and he may well play well enough to beat back Jackson. We’ll see.”
King: I Believe Ravens Would’ve Taken D.J. Moore Over Hayden Hurst
We talked last week about the decisions we’ll look back on in a few years to determine the Ravens’ overall draft success.
One of those decisions is passing on D.J. Moore by trading back (a second time) from No. 22 to 25.
“Just my opinion, but … I do think if the Panthers passed on Maryland receiver D.J. Moore at 24, there’s a good chance Baltimore would have taken the local hero, Moore, over tight end Hayden Hurst at 25,” wrote King. “As it was, Baltimore tight ends at 25 and 89 (Hurst, Mark Andrews) and wideouts at 132 and 162 (Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley).”
A good chance? Maybe King is right, given that Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta told “The Lounge” podcast last week that the reason why he traded back in the first place was because Moore, Hurst and Jackson were all similarly graded and they knew they could still get one.
Whether the Ravens definitely liked Moore is unclear, however, as they knew the Panthers were in the market for a wide receiver and Baltimore took the chance that he’d be gone by the time they were on the clock again at 25.
Two Pluses for Jackson Over the Weekend: Accuracy and Likability
How did Jackson look in his first, and only, practice open to the media Saturday?
Exactly what you’d expect, and even hope, which is kind of exciting.
“On his first true pro weekend, Jackson looked like a collegian making the first step toward the NFL level of quarterbacking … and yet still like one of the elite quarterbacks of the draft class,” wrote Sporting News’ David Steele.
Jackson is learning to take more snaps under center, transitioning from the shotgun-heavy offense he played in college. He wasn’t perfect, but nevertheless impressive so early in the process.
“Notably, he showed flashes of the explosive running ability, on a handful of plays where protection broke down and — while quarterbacks all wore the vests signaling they weren’t to be tackled — bolted into the open field just as he had during his Louisville career,” Steele added.
“He mostly showed touch on throws all over the field, and clicked immediately with three of the receivers the Ravens drafted, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews and wideout Jordan Lasley.”
ESPN added that, at times, he threw wobbly passes and overthrew intended receivers on some short or intermediate routes, but also showed touch on his deep ball.
Head Coach John Harbaugh emphasized how good Jackson’s accuracy was. He said that everything is left up to the imagination until you actually get a player on your own practice field, and he was impressed once Jackson stepped on.
“The thing that I was really impressed with, I thought he was accurate. You read the reports and stuff like that, but he’s a naturally talented thrower,” Harbaugh said.
Outside of his play, several media members are noticing that every time they ask teammates what it’s like to play with Jackson, they light up.
Rookie Camp Standouts: Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews and Jordan Lasley
A disclaimer: Media have only had one 2.5-hour session watching the Ravens rookies, so you can’t read too much into what was seen.
That said, fans understandably want to know who made a strong first impression. Zrebiec named five standouts, including Andrews, Hurst, Lasley and cornerbacks Anthony Averett (fourth round) and Darious Williams (undrafted).
I was at practice on Saturday, and it really was hard not to notice the weapons Baltimore drafted. The tight ends were involved A LOT. The big-bodied targets frequently got open and showed extremely reliable hands.
“Hurst was impressive at rookie minicamp, smoothly running routes and showing soft hands,” wrote ESPN. “The first-round pick caught nearly everything thrown his way. Hurst almost pulled in a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone.”
Lasley was all over the place, catching intermediate and deep balls. He could also be easily heard, as he frequently cheered on his offensive teammates, including Jackson on a run up the middle.
“Jackson's best throw Saturday, a 20-yarder on a rope down the middle in a five-on-three drill, was to Lasley,” wrote Steele.
As for the corners …
“A fourth-round pick out of Alabama, Averett didn’t do anything outstanding,” Zrebiec wrote. “But you could tell how confident and comfortable he was, which isn’t surprising given the program he came from.
“… An undrafted free agent out of Alabama-Birmingham, Williams made several plays on the ball and nearly came away with a few interceptions. In just two college seasons, he had 26 passes defended and six interceptions. It will be tough for an undrafted free agent to make the roster this year at cornerback, but Williams should get plenty of opportunities to state his case.”
Only Four Rookies Remain Unsigned
The rookie pay scale sure makes it easy to get draft picks under contract, so the Ravens can now avoid holdouts like back in the day with receiver Mark Clayton in 2005.
The team announced it already signed eight of its 12-man class, including Averett, fourth-round linebacker Kenny Young, fourth-rounder Scott, fifth-rounder Lasley, sixth-round safety DeShon Elliott, sixth-round tackle Greg Senat, sixth-round center Bradley Bozeman and seventh-round defensive end Zach Sieler.
“Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, all draft picks are required to sign four-year deals, with the rookie wage scale determined by their slot in the draft,” wrote The Sun’s Jonas Shaffer.
“Teams can also pick up a fifth-year option on first-round picks such as Hurst and Jackson, who participated in the Ravens’ rookie minicamp Saturday but have not yet signed. Third-round picks Orlando Brown Jr., an offensive tackle, and Mark Andrews, a tight end, are the team’s only other selections not under contract.”