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Late for Work 7/7: Projecting Lamar Jackson's 2021 Passing Stats

QB Lamar Jackson

PFF Predicts Lamar Jackson's Passing Yards to Skyrocket in 2021

After an offseason consisting of the Ravens' front office addressing the passing offense, Pro Football Focus believes Lamar Jackson will shatter his career high in single-season passing yardage.

Jackson threw for 3,127 yards during his 2019 MVP season, then 2,757 yards last year. PFF projects Jackson to throw for 3,790 yards in 2021.

Stats will rise across the league in the new 17-game season, but it's still a huge jump for Jackson, especially over last season (increase of 1,033 yards).

While PFF has confidence in Jackson to air it out, oddsmakers for DraftKings Sportsbook are placing the line lower, at 3,200 yards passing and favoring the under.

Either way, it's clear the Ravens strongly emphasized bolstering the receiving unit and passing as a whole and pundits expect Jackson to take advantage. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley notes where the newest Ravens receivers can help the passing attack most.

"The Ravens' two biggest additions at wide receiver — Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins — could help stretch the field," Hensley wrote. "Bateman averaged 20.3 yards per catch in 2019 (his last full season in college), and Watkins produced 18 catches of 20-plus yards in 2015 (his one season with Roman as his offensive coordinator in Buffalo)."

Deep-ball passing was a challenge for the Ravens last season and if Jackson can hit his newest weapons or connect more frequently with his favorite targets, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, he may easily eclipse his career best in passing yardage in 2021. According to Hensley, Jackson ranked No. 19 in attempted throws of 20 yards or more with a 37.8% completion rate.

This will also be Hollywood's first normal offseason as he recovered from foot surgery in 2019 and the NFL cancelled all in-person activities last year due to COVID-19. Hollywood's teammate, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, believes he will break 1,000 yards this season.

Yards won't just come in the form of wide receivers and tight ends, either, as the Ravens hope to expand running back J.K. Dobbins's role in the passing game.

"One way Baltimore can convert carries into receptions is to ramp up the impact of its top running back in the passing game," Hensley wrote. "In the last two seasons, Jackson's 89 completions to running backs ranks 28th in the NFL. He's been more apt to scramble than dump the ball off in the flat."

CBS Sports Tyler Sullivan thinks Jackson's development as a passer could be a catalyst for a Super Bowl bid.

"While he didn't have quite the same success in 2020 as his record-breaking campaign in 2019, Jackson is still considered to be one of the top quarterbacks that this conference has to offer," Sullivan wrote. "That said, his continued development as a passer will be worth watching as we enter this coming season. If he can become more prolific in that regard – similar to his 2019 season where he led the league in passing touchdowns – that will raise the ceiling for Baltimore's Super Bowl chances exponentially."

All the makings for a breakout season are ripe for Jackson's taking. All that is left is to see how he'll perform.

Silence From Fanbase Speaks Volumes Regarding Wide Receiver Room

In what feels like a first, Ravens fans and websites didn't instantly clamor for an NFL receiver who is expected to become available.

On Tuesday, New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry formally requested a trade. Harry was a first-round pick in 2019.

Not a single stir came across Ravens Twitter and local media begging for Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta to make a trade.

For years on end, Ravens fans and media have instantly jumped on the latest receiver available. It's not out of line either, as the team has pursued free agents at the position for years, including Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace and Dez Bryant. But this isn't the case for Harry and I think it's for two reasons.

1.     Ravens' fans are confident in the current crop of wide receivers.

2.     Harry hasn't exactly excelled in the NFL.

The pulse of the fanbase appears to have changed. With the team adding Watkins and drafting Bateman, the hunger for any new player has quelled. Fans are buoyed by the moves made by DeCosta and the front office, adding talent at wide receiver through the draft in recent years..

In all fairness, maybe the fanbase is also unimpressed by Harry's NFL tenure. He's played in 21 games and amassed 45 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns.

Whether it's for one reason or several, the absence of articles pertaining to Harry is notable. It shows the fanbase is excited about the receivers already on the 90-man roster and how the position will shake out in the days to come.

Offense Transcends in PFF's "Best-Case Scenario"

Sticking with the offense, PFF’s Ben Linsey goes through the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Ravens:

90th percentile outcome: 12-5

How they get there: "The best receiving corps of Jackson's career following the offseason additions of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace helps him get back toward his 2019 output as a passer (82.5 passing grade). The offensive line additions of Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva and Ben Cleveland and the return of a healthy Ronnie Stanley more than make up for the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, improving a unit that finished the 2020 season ranked 23rd in overall grade.

"Meanwhile, one of the best secondaries in the NFL maintains Baltimore's spot as an upper-tier defense."

There's a case to be made that this isn't so farfetched; at least, not in the ways listed by Linsey. The offense has unquestionably increased in talent. It would be bizarre if the offseason additions listed did not help get Jackson's production closer to 2019 levels.

Moreover, a 12-5 season record feels par for the course with the Ravens. They went 14-2 in 2019 and only 11-5 last season. This sounds more along the lines of expected outcome, not a "best-case scenario." To offer my opinion, the best-case scenario for the Ravens would be more along the lines of a 15-2 record with Jackson going over 4,000 yards passing and 45-50 total touchdowns.

The worst-case scenario given by Linsey has the Ravens going 7-10.

How they get there: "Baltimore's offense doesn't evolve, and opposing defenses are better prepared to force the Ravens to win through the air. The carelessness with the ball that Lamar Jackson showcased early on last season, when he ranked third in the league in turnover-worthy play rate through his first eight games, extends over the course of the entire 2021 season.

"The loss of Yannick Ngakoue (74.5 pass-rush grade in 2020) and Matthew Judon (67.0) are felt on defense, as well. The Ravens struggle to generate consistent pressure, even with the league's highest blitz rate."

Linsey's take on the Ravens' losses at outside linebacker is not surprising with Judon and Ngakoue gone, there are questions about the pass rush and age on the defensive line, something Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich noted.

"The Ravens have a veteran-laden defensive line that is among the best in the NFL," Karpovich wrote. "However, three of their key players — Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe — are over 30 years old. With the 17-game season, these players will be under more pressure."

As for the offensive scenario in Linsey's worst case, I'll keep it short: It's hardly likely we see the Ravens offense lack evolution. There's been far too much effort by the entire organization to see it fall flat on its face.

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