The Ravens are asking a lot of Lamar Jackson in his rookie season at age 21, taking over as the starting quarterback with the team fighting for a playoff spot. However, the Ravens have seen a maturity and even temperament in Jackson all season, and that has not changed with him winning four of his first five as a starter.
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is not worried about how Jackson will react to Saturday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers, knowing the atmosphere will feel like a playoff game.
"I'll tell you what, Lamar [Jackson] has been impressive from the start," Mornhinweg said. "Sometimes, it's a little bit more important, and a little more difficult, sometimes, to handle some really good success, and he's done that part really well. It's harder to handle that sometimes than disaster. So, that's been impressive."
The Chargers have not played since last Thursday, while the Ravens are dealing with a short week and a cross-country trip. Jackson will have shorter prep time before his sixth start, but Mornhinweg said there would be no excuses, and he left Tuesday's practice with a good feeling.
"They've had a long week; we've had a short week, we have to go clear across [the country] – all these things, right?," Mornhinweg said. "Well, you combat that with preparation, and so the guys have done a great job. It was a heck of little walkthrough practice today, but the fellas were on it."
Tony Jefferson Says Eric Weddle is Stoked to Face Former Team
Ravens safety Eric Weddle spent nine seasons with the Chargers before signing with the Ravens in 2016. You don't spend that long with one organization without forming strong bonds. Ravens safety Tony Jefferson knows Saturday won't be just another game to Weddle.
"Oh, yes," Jefferson said. "Eric has been watching the Chargers since OTA's on film. I've caught him a few times in meetings looking at [Chargers quarterback] Philip Rivers and what they do. Obviously, he was there for a long time. He has much respect for that organization, I do know that, and it's definitely a big game for him."
Weddle matching wits with Rivers, trying to determine where he wants to throw the football, will be a game within the game. Rivers and Weddle competed against each other in practice for years. However, Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale knows that trying to contain Rivers will be a group effort.
"He's going to go down as one of the greatest," Martindale said. "Everybody sees it, everybody knows it. You can't say that he's like somebody else; he's Philip Rivers. I think the young quarterbacks aspire to be like him, the way he has command of the offense."
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn Believes Jackson Will Improve As Pocket Passer
Jackson has rushed for 427 yards in five starts, the most for any quarterback in his first five starts during the Super Bowl era. However, Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn says it's unwise to assume Jackson will rely on his legs this much throughout his career.
"I know he's beating people with his legs right now, and he has no choice as to [how] they choose to use him with his legs," Lynn said during a conference call. "But I watched him in college, and he threw for over 9,000 yards in college. The young man can throw the football, and he can develop into a pocket passer in this league. He has that type of skillset and that type of versatility. Just the fact that someone can move around like that and throw it – he's a threat."
Lynn is not upset the Chargers have extra time to prepare for Jackson. He admitted the schedule could give his team an advantage.
"It can be, especially when you're going up against an offense that you don't see every week," Lynn said. "I don't know if there are any advantages. We had a shorter week (the previous week) and that definitely wasn't an advantage. Now I just think it all evens out at some point. But, we'll see."