What Will Jackson’s Rushing Workload Be?
In a conference call with Ravens PSL holders this offseason, Owner Steve Bisciotti said he doesn’t expect Lamar Jackson to be running 20 times a game. The exact number is being speculated as the Ravens rebuild their offense, but Head Coach John Harbaugh offered a small glimpse.
When asked about Lamar Jackson's "pitch count" as a runner this season compared to Cam Newton's career-high rushing attempts (139), Harbaugh told NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala and Brian Billick, “I’d bet the over on that one.”
“I don’t think we know the exact numbers or the math,” Harbaugh said. “... What’s the next era going to be? Well, we’re about to find out. We’re about to find out what the limits are on that. I think it’s going to open up opportunities for quarterbacks. … It’s going to make it tough on defenses, and that’s the idea.”
Jackson won’t ever be Newton’s size, but said he added seven to 10 pounds of muscle this summer. ESPN’s Booger McFarland said on “First Take” that he would be shocked if Jackson’s running workload decreased.
“Right now, the best thing Jackson does is run the ball,” McFarland said. “He’s getting better as a passer, but he’s nowhere near where he needs to be where he can stop running. So, he’s going to have to run; Otherwise, you may as well find another starting quarterback.”
Host Molly Qerim even questioned Jackson’s future as the starter.
“I saw Jackson at the end, and he struggled,” Qerim said. “Can he be even a competent NFL quarterback, period?”
“He can, and oftentimes you make your biggest jump in the league between Year 1 and Year 2,” McFarland responded. “There’s no doubt he’s been working on his weaknesses, but at some point, even if you go back to Louisville when he played there, the best thing he did was throw the deep ball down the field and run the football.”
It can be easy to forget that Jackson was thrown into the starting role midway through the 2018 season. This is his first full offseason as the starter, and he’s already showing improvements as a passer.
“It’s just one practice that I saw, but Jackson stuck in and around the pocket Friday,” King wrote. “He spent the offseason doing what smart quarterbacks do—adjusting to the passing portion of his team’s playbook. He was a 58 percent passer last year, but his 170-147 pass-run ratio in 2018 should be far more lopsided in favor of the pass in 2019.”
Ravens Reportedly Work Out Josh Johnson, But He Passes on Offer
Robert Griffin III dressed for Sunday’s training camp practice, accumulating mental reps and helping out in any way he could. While Griffin is sidelined for “at least a few weeks” after fracturing a bone in his right hand, the Ravens are in the market for a backup quarterback.
“[T]he Ravens have only two healthy signal callers, and they’ll surely need another to get through the preseason,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote. “If they are confident that Griffin won’t be sidelined for too long … then they’ll probably sign a veteran or a relatively unknown rookie just to serve as a camp body. If they are worried that Griffin’s absence could extend into the regular season, then they may have to target a more established and experienced guy who would come in and compete with [Trace] McSorley for the backup job.”
According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, the Ravens are reportedly working out free-agent quarterback Josh Johnson.
However, Rapoport tweeted Monday afternoon that Johnson passed on a Ravens offer.
There’s familiarity on both sides (Johnson spent the 2016 offseason with Baltimore), and pundits believe Johnson makes sense given the available free-agent options.
“Johnson’s mobility makes him a potential fit in the Ravens’ offense, which the coaching staff built around the speed of starting quarterback Lamar Jackson,” PennLive’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote. “Johnson also familiarity with the team after spending the 2016 preseason in Baltimore. And Johnson’s stint with the 49ers came while Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman held the same job in San Francisco.”
Johnson threw for 590 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions in three starts for the Washington Redskins last season.
Kasinitz noted that Johnson’s health could factor into a potential signing after he reportedly underwent ankle surgery in March. For the time being, Griffin’s injury moves McSorley up the depth chart.
Even then, pundits think that may be a lot for a rookie still adjusting to life as an NFL quarterback.
“McSorley’s ability to pick up special teams responsibilities seems like an afterthought,” Zrebiec wrote. “He immediately becomes the team’s top backup and will likely see an increase in practice reps and playing time in the preseason games. McSorley has steadily improved since the rookie minicamp, but he has a long way to go.”
Peter King Believes Ravens Are Contenders, Talks DeCosta’s Commitment to Analytics
NBC Sports’ Peter King stopped by practice Friday and believes the Ravens are firmly in the mix as contenders in the AFC North, despite varying opinions on the team’s forecast this season.
“I have heard a lot of people say Pittsburgh [and] Cleveland,” King said. “I do not believe that this going to be a two-team race. I believe it’s going to be a three-team race: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore.
“The reason why I think that is because John Harbaugh figures it out, he always figures it out. I think his steadying leadership, what they’re doing differently both on offense and defense … I think this going to be a contending team.”
The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia made a case for nine AFC contenders this season, and the Ravens fell under the “Don’t count ‘em out” category.
“They may be the most difficult team to project going into this season,” Kapadia wrote. “I like that the Ravens are going all in with Greg Roman designing and scheming an offense built around Jackson, but I need to see more to believe in him as a passer … This is one of the highest variance teams in the league. Baltimore’s season could really go in a number of different directions, one of which includes an AFC North title and a deep playoff run. Two things we know about a John Harbaugh-coached team that gives the Ravens an edge: It will be great on special teams. And it will be aggressive.”
King also praised Eric DeCosta’s commitment to analytics. The first-year general manager bolstered the department this offseason with new hires and is close friends with Orioles Assistant General Manager Sig Mejdal.
“The Ravens were leaders in accumulating compensatory draft picks, and the league followed,” King wrote. “The Ravens figured out that offensive linemen in spread systems were tortured acclimating to the NFL, so they made hay with mid-round Big Ten, pro-style linemen.” Now Baltimore’s entire offensive strategy is running counter to what the rest of the NFL is doing.
“We’re looking for 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent advantages,” DeCosta told King. “There’s no 50 percent edge anymore.”
Marquise Brown: ‘You’re Going to Feel My Energy Out There’
Anticipation continues to build around Marquise “Hollywood” Brown as he recovers from a Lisfranc foot injury. The rookie first-round pick is expected to be an integral part of the Ravens’ offense this season, and he sat down with NFL Network’s Steve Smith Sr. at the NFLPA “Rookie Premiere” Event.
When asked what to expect during his rookie year, Brown didn’t hold back.
“You’re going to feel my energy out there,” Brown said. “I play the game to have fun. I’m playing the game to dominate. I’m playing the game to win. You can see it if you’re there, through the TV, you can see it.”
Brown also spoke about his relationship with cousin Antonio Brown and the sacrifices his mother made to get him to this point.
“Without a doubt, the strongest person I know,” Brown said. “Going through what she went through, there’s no excuse that I have to make not being small, this and that. My mom went through what she went through, so I know I can go through anything.”