The difference in playing styles between Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco presents an interesting dynamic for the Ravens and their opponents.
Flacco is now the backup quarterback, but if he were to enter the game, some offensive packages tailored for Jackson would not play to Flacco’s strengths. A game plan more suited for Flacco remains in place.
“Joe and I, and John [Harbaugh], the head coach, and I have discussed exactly [what to do],” Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “And so, we have plans, and Joe feels really good about the things that we would immediately go to when he’s in the game. I went through it the past couple weeks, really. We have more than enough for Joe to be able to go in and have some success without sort of reverting back. One of the great things about this system is you can do just about anything needed very, very quickly, and very easily, that way.”
Sunday will be the first time in Flacco’s 11-year career that he will dress for a game, but not start. That is a major adjustment for a veteran quarterback, but Mornhinweg has no doubt Flacco will be ready if called upon.
“Make no mistake about it, he’s a great preparation man,” Mornhinweg said. “He will be prepared, and then the one thing we briefly talked about was, ‘You’re going to have to keep yourself warm on the sideline.’ It always goes into play once you get to this time of year.”
Tony Jefferson Returns to Practice on Limited Basis
Veteran starting safety Tony Jefferson is moving closer to a return after missing the past two games (ankle). Jefferson practiced on a limited basis Thursday, his first time on the field since his injury Nov. 15 against the Oakland Raiders.
Second-year safety Chuck Clark and veteran safety Eric Weddle played 86 snaps apiece Sunday, tying inside linebacker C.J. Mosley for most snaps. Jefferson’s return to action Sunday would be a boost to the defense facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lead the NFL in passing yards with 331.4 yards per game.
Left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. James Hurst, who started the Chiefs game in Lewis’ absence, could make his second straight start at left guard.
Rookie Anthony Averett Looks Ready to Handle Increased Playing Time
Fourth-round pick Anthony Averett played 39 snaps against Kansas City on Sunday, his most action of the season. With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young both dealing with groin injuries, Averett rose to the occasion, playing against one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in a hostile environment.
The Ravens are deep at cornerback, but Jimmy Smith played a season-high 84 snaps Sunday, while Humphrey was limited to 44 snaps. Averett could be called upon in more crucial situations down the stretch.
“He’s been really important,” Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. “You can just see he’s getting used to pro football and the tempo of the game and preparing himself for each game. The best compliment that I could give him – and I know this probably sounds like a backhanded compliment – is he played 30 plays, and I didn’t realize he played that 30 plays. They did not go after him. He’s playing at a high level right now.”
Keeping Jameis Winston From Extending Is a Priority for Ravens Defense
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston has the league’s highest quarterback rating outside the pocket (124.4) and his level of play has made a jump in recent weeks.
Over his last four games, Winston has thrown eight touchdown passes and two interceptions, and he has not lost a fumble during that period. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (70 catches, 1,207 yards) has already chalked up his fifth straight 1,000-yard season, leading a strong receiving corps that also includes DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries.
Jackson (thumb) has not practiced this week, making his status uncertain for Sunday. But Winston has terrific chemistry with Evans, who knows how to free himself once Winston begins to adlib. Much like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Winston makes some of his best throws on the run.
“We don’t want him to extend plays with his athleticism,” Martindale said. “I know sometimes it gets back to, ‘Yeah, I know [General] Custer had a plan, too.’But we want to try to keep him in the pocket. We really do, because when he extends the plays he becomes that much more effective. But he’s also effective in the pocket, the way he’s playing right now.”