Lamar Jackson Opens Up About Postseason Losses
Lamar Jackson has racked up almost every accolade imaginable in just two seasons, but the one omission is a playoff win.
You can bet that bothers Jackson more than anyone else.
"I just want to get back to that situation so I can perform different," Jackson told NBC Sports’ Peter King. "Just put it on my shoulders and go from there. I gotta fight to get back to that situation. It's gonna be a different result this time."
Jackson opened up to King about his playoff losses and said he's determined to overcome them heading into his third season.
"I think about it a lot, to be honest with you," Jackson said. "That's where I wanna be. That's when everything gets … crucial. It's tough. I remember LeGarrette Blount DM'd me on Instagram. He was like, you know, playoffs is different from regular season. I'm like, nah. But it is, because it's win or go home. And I'm tired of going home. I just can't wait to get back in that same spot and perform at a whole 'nother level.'"
The first playoff loss for Jackson was a blur. It came after he took over the starting quarterback job midway through his rookie season.
Last year, the Ravens rode a 12-game win streak into the divisional round as the No. 1 seed, and fell short to the Tennessee Titans.
We live in an age of instant reaction and Jackson has received plenty of criticism for his early postseason struggles. Yet with such a small sample size, it's unfair to make that generalization. Many quarterbacks don't lead their teams to the playoffs twice before they turn 23.
Those inside 1 Winning Drive have full confidence in their quarterback.
"I do not subscribe to the theory Lamar cannot win a playoff game," General Manager Eric DeCosta told King. "I saw him beat playoff team after playoff team – New England, Seattle, San Francisco, Buffalo, Houston. We just weren't good enough that day. We own it, and we move on."
So what makes this year different? King cited the additions of J.K. Dobbins, Devin Duvernay, Calais Campbell and Patrick Queen, who should elevate the Ravens on both sides of the ball.
Jackson's improvement also matters. After the strides he made last season, Jackson told reporters last week that he's worked on becoming a better down-the-field passer.
But this year, success will be defined in the postseason.
"The cast will be a little different this year, and maybe Jackson runs for 900 yards instead of 1,200," King wrote. "But he knows success this year will be getting the Ravens deep into the playoffs. Very deep."
Antonio Brown Suspended; Ravens Remain a Team to Watch
Any team that signs Antonio Brown will have to wait until Week 9 before he can take the field.
On Friday, Brown was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season for multiple violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy.
"A league source said the NFL's investigation into those specific claims remains open (as does a civil suit filed against him in a South Florida court last year), and Brown could be subject to further punishment if additional violations of the conduct policy are discovered," The Athletic's Lindsay Jones wrote. "For now, though, Friday's ruling allows teams and Brown to have a better idea of Brown's availability should a team decide to sign him."
Brown remains an unrestricted free agent, and ESPN's Jeff Darlington tweeted that the Ravens and Seattle Seahawks remain the teams to watch.
Jones acknowledged that there are two routes teams could go if they're interested in signing Brown. The first would be signing Brown and allowing him to participate in team activities during the offseason before his suspension begins. The other would be waiting to sign Brown until his suspension has been completed.
These possibilities exist with the concern of how the season will operate amid the coronavirus pandemic, making matters even more complicated.
"Baltimore has taken two wide receivers in each of the last three drafts, including Brown's cousin Marquise in the first round in 2019," Stevens wrote. "While Brown was arguably the best wide receiver in the league during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would bring the potential for off-field antics. Plus, Brown just doesn't fit the mold of someone the Ravens typically sign."
"With an eight game suspension, that would be too much backlash for a player who will miss half of the season," Schisler added. "In the face of a global pandemic, you can't even assume that we'll get a full season. Can you imagine the Ravens signing Brown, going through that firestorm, and then the season getting shut down before he even had the chance to play?"
It's been Brown's off-the-field concerns that have provided the biggest question marks. After being investigated by the NFL for issues of sexual assault and misconduct, are the Ravens or another team willing to take that risk?
"We'll look at any and every player at all times. Brown is no exception," Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters last week. "Decisions will be made based on whatever they're made.
Daylon Mack's Release Highlights Ravens' Defensive Line Depth
It's not often that the Ravens move on from draft picks after just one year. That's why it was surprising when the team released former fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack over the weekend.
It didn't take long before Mack was claimed by the Detroit Lions off waivers.
The move highlighted the amount of depth the Ravens have on the defensive line heading into training camp.
"Mack's early dismissal is a pretty big deal for several other guys on the roster bubble," Stevens wrote. "It also might indicate what Baltimore wants to do on their defensive line moving forward."
DeCosta made a concerted effort to bolster the defensive line this offseason and the Ravens added a mix of veteran and young talent.
With Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe projected to be the starters, Mack's release opens up bigger opportunities for rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr.
The Ravens also re-signed defensive tackle Justin Ellis and defensive end Jihad Ward to one-year deals this offseason.
Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz predicted that the Ravens could keep seven defensive lineman on the 53-man roster. They kept just five last season.
"The Ravens don't typically carry that many players on the D-line, but Ellis provides veteran insurance at nose tackle and Ward's a versatile player who can line up as an outside linebacker," Kasinitz wrote. "After struggling to find depth up front last season, Baltimore might overcorrect and hang onto extra defensive linemen this year."
Ravens Were the NFL's Most Efficient Red-Zone Offense
One of the most important barometers of an offense's success is their ability to score touchdowns in the red zone, and no team was better than the Ravens last season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Baltimore had the highest efficiency per play (EPA) in the red zone.
"While you might be inclined to point to the run game as the big reason why, the Ravens' rushing attack was actually rather pedestrian inside the red zone, ranking just 17th in EPA per run play inside the 20-yard line," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "In comparison, they were the only team to generate a positive EPA per run play outside the red zone in 2019 (0.07).
The Ravens' offense averaged a league-high 33.2 points per game during the regular season. A large part of their success was their efficiency in the red zone.
Even with a shortened field, Jackson was PFF's third-highest graded quarterback in that area. He led the NFL with 26 touchdown passes in the red zone and didn't throw an interception.
One of the biggest reflections of the Ravens' red-zone success was a lack of kicking. Justin Tucker attempted a career-low 29 field goals, but attempted a career-high 59 extra points.
"Rather, their success in the red-zone came from the best red-zone passing attack in the NFL," Linsey added. "The Ravens averaged 0.53 EPA per pass play inside the 20-yard line, over two-tenths of a point higher than any other offense."
- New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is the latest former Raven opt-out of the 2020 season.