Lamar Jackson and Quarterbacks Coach James Urban have a close relationship, and each offseason their goal is for Jackson to become even better than the previous season. Jackson has set a very high standard for himself at age 24, winning the NFL MVP award in only his second year, and leading Baltimore to the playoffs in all three of his seasons.
However, Jackson is still pushing himself to achieve greatness, including his ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. Urban loves the passion that Jackson brings to the game, and watching him at OTAs, Urban senses the young quarterback becoming even more focused.
"I think regardless of position, but in particular the quarterback position, there's this maturation that happens," Urban said. "How to generate game reps in practice and then learning how to handle an offseason. You don't have a 'GA' [graduate assistant] calling you to make sure you're going to all the workouts. You don't have coaches screaming at you to be at this or be at that.
"So, there's a maturation that happens as you become a professional athlete, and that includes everything. That includes nutrition, body maintenance, including some preparation in advancement of injury and all those things. [It includes] arm maintenance and all that. So, he's in that process. He's maturing in many ways. He's growing, and he works hard at it. He wants to get better at everything, and that's what we're doing."
Urban is often asked to describe specifically which aspects of Jackson's game they're focusing on. Urban takes a broader view. Instead of simply focusing on mechanics, or Jackson's accuracy as a deep-ball thrower, Urban wants Jackson to think about improving across the board.
"I would say that we're chasing everything," Urban said. "Especially this time of year, I want growth everywhere. I want growth in terms of footwork. I want growth in terms of throwing mechanics. I want growth in terms of operating some of the at-the-line [of scrimmage] adjustments – those kinds of things.
"I think that's the natural progression, you know? A guy who plays at a very high level and then you just continue to grow his game. One thing he and I have talked about are the great basketball players, Michael Jordan comes to mind. He had to learn jump shots. So, you learn a jump shot, and you just keep expanding your game that way."
Tyus Bowser Grows Into Leadership Role
Tyus Bowser is entering his fifth season with the Ravens after re-signing with them during free agency. That makes Bowser a senior member of the outside linebacker group after Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue departed during free agency. Bowser plans to embrace more of a leadership role, knowing that young outside linebackers Jaylon Ferguson, Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes will be seeking guidance.
"One of my main focuses this offseason is being more of a vocal leader," Bowser said. "I just want to teach these guys the ropes, the playbook, put them in the right position."
Bowser's play has blossomed over the past two seasons, and he has become an asset in pass coverage while also putting pressure on quarterbacks. He likes what he has seen so far from first-rounder Oweh and fifth-rounder Hayes.
"Odafe is pretty good, I like what he has to offer," Bowser said. "Daelin kind of gives me an impression of me when I was coming into the league. How well he can move, and with Odafe, how strong he is and the motor that he has. He plays hard every play. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do to help us out."
Urban Believes in Young Backup Quarterbacks
The Ravens have two young quarterbacks, Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley, competing to be the backup quarterback behind Lamar Jackson. Neither has much game experience, but Urban has confidence in both players. The Ravens decided not to re-sign veteran Robert Griffin III, who had been Jackson's backup for two seasons. McSorley has appeared in just three games during his two seasons, while Huntley saw action in three games as a rookie, including the playoff loss to Buffalo when he entered the game in the fourth quarter after Jackson was injured.
"I'm very comfortable with both Trace and Tyler," Urban said. "They both approach it the way you have to as a backup in this league; they approach it like they're starters. That's how they're working, that's how they prepare every day. I'm very comfortable with that. The one thing they just haven't had is great opportunity. [With] no preseason last year, we didn't get to see much.
Both Huntley and McSorley threw the ball well during Wednesday's OTA practice and Urban is pleased with their progress.
"I'm excited to see where the rest of this offseason goes," Urban says. "I'm excited to see them during the preseason, and I will not be surprised if they are what I think they are."