What Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson Sharing Field Together Does and Does NOT Mean
While Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed Tuesday that the “creative juices are flowing” by trying to get quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on the field together, he did not reveal how it will happen.
Withholding the tactical details smartly keeps opponents in the dark, but it also keeps fans in the dark, which led to rampant speculation about what the implications are for the two quarterbacks.
Reporters watching practice have cleared up some misconceptions about what this strategy does and does not mean:
It does NOT mean Jackson is transitioning to wide receiver.
The Ravens have been clear about this. Jackson has been clear about this. They both view the Heisman Trophy winner as a quarterback, and the practice reps back up their words.
“Jackson has primarily been playing quarterback,” ESPN observed. “He's been getting the second-most reps during offseason practices open to the media, and he doesn't do any drills at other positions. Jackson has shown good touch on his downfield throws, and Harbaugh has raved about his ‘natural arm talent.’”
When the Ravens do practice these wrinkles with Jackson and Flacco on the field together, it probably adds up to somewhere between 1-3 percent of the plays. And, it’s interchangeable. That means, as Harbaugh made clear, both quarterbacks are throwing and both are doing “other things.” Just as Flacco doing “other things” doesn’t mean he’s changing positions, the same goes for Jackson.
It does NOT mean Flacco’s starting role is in jeopardy.
Even though this narrative continues to be pushed because the Ravens drafted Jackson in the first round, the fact remains that Flacco is the unquestioned starter. Flacco is clearly ahead of any other quarterback on the roster and he’s playing better than he has in years.
The dynamic could change a year or so down the road, but barring an injury, Flacco remains the top dog.
It does mean the Ravens are trying to jump-start their offense with their most physically-gifted player.
The Ravens offense ranked No. 27 overall last year, and they badly need to get it rolling again.
They’ve brought in a truckload of new pass-catching weapons to help, and in addition to that, Harbaugh best summed up the coaches’ intentions with Jackson by saying, “You have to use your good players."
“An offense that’s lacked playmakers for years should be exhausting every avenue for an edge,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.
The way Jackson’s teammates rave about the physically-gifted quarterback makes it understandable why coaches are trying to get him on the field while he still develops into a starter.
Teammates are literally “in awe.”
“Once he gets out of the pocket, it’s like watching a young Michael Vick," defensive leader C.J. Mosley said. "It’s amazing to watch. When you’re defending him, you just have to act like you’re tagging off -- you don’t want to be on the highlight reel.
“It’s very creative. We don’t really know it’s going to work until we put it out there. It’s been giving us some problems on some of the plays. It’s cool just to see the way we can switch things up with quarterbacks.”
It does mean the creativity comes with risk.
Every experiment comes with risk, and here’s how Jones sizes up the Ravens’ gamble:
“The league’s 29th-ranked passing offense from a year ago is already trying to assimilate three new veteran wide receivers atop the depth chart as well as two rookie tight ends expected to play significant roles,” he wrote. “When an offense tries to extend itself with too much change and innovation, it runs the risk of mastering too little, leaving the unit incomplete and unproductive.
“Perhaps even worse than the potential drawbacks to the 2018 offense could be the impact of Jackson’s usage as a hybrid player on his overall development. … Part of that process for a mobile quarterback is learning how to be judicious using his legs in an effort to keep himself healthy as much as being a successful passer for the long haul. Might that learning curve be stunted by asking Jackson to focus too much on going all out as a runner or even a receiver in more of a non-quarterback role right now?”
It does mean we’ll have to wait to see what survives the offseason and makes it to actual games.
Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp is the time to think outside the box. Harbaugh said they’re still trying to “figure out” what options work best and added, “we’ll see where it goes.”
The Ravens are experimenting at multiple positions. Nothing is set in stone.
“Time will tell how many of these ideas survive the drawing board to become an actual part of the Baltimore offense during the 2018 season,” wrote ProFootballTalk.com’s Josh Alper.
Terrell Suggs Looks in ‘Phenomenal’ Shape
Tuesday marked the first day that reporters got a glimpse of Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, and they liked what they saw.
Suggs has been at the Under Armour Performance Center this offseason training with Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders, but he sat out the voluntary practice sessions.
His loud, boisterous personality was noticeable upon his return to mandatory minicamp, as was his svelte appearance.
Alex Lewis’ Back Spasms Aren’t Serious, But Reporters Are Concerned About His Overall Track Record
Harbaugh made it clear that offensive lineman Alex Lewis’ back spasms, which flared up in the weight room, is only a minor injury.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious, according to our trainers, that would keep him out of training camp or even keep him out for very long,” Harbaugh said. “But I didn’t see any reason to bring him out here today.”
Still, reporters are taking pause because the 2016 fourth-round pick has played in just 10 of 32 games so far in his career. Lewis missed seven games his rookie year with an ankle injury, and he was on injured reserve all last year after having shoulder surgery.
“Though Harbaugh said the injury was minor, Lewis’ health is of broader interest,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.
Lewis is a major factor in how the starting offensive line will look. With him sidelined, the starting line in Tuesday’s practice featured Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Jermaine Eluemunor at left guard, Matt Skura at center, James Hurst at right guard and rookie Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle.
Brent Urban Takes Another Encouraging Step
The Ravens defense got more good news from starting defensive end Brent Urban, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 3 of last season.
“Urban increased his activity level from earlier spring workouts by taking reps in full-team drills, an encouraging step ahead of the grind of training camp,” wrote Jones.