Lamar Jackson started the season hot, completing 80 percent of his passes against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, then 75 percent the following week in Houston.
Over the last four games, however, his completion percentage has dropped to 56.6 percent, which ranks 31st in the league.
While Jackson has misfired on some opportunities, Quarterbacks Coach James Urban says Jackson's completion percentage has also suffered due to some intentional throwaways. Which isn't always a bad thing.
Jackson has thrown just two interceptions and Urban is pleased that Jackson has not forced more dangerous throws into tight coverage. In fact, Urban was not happy when Jackson didn't throw the ball away Sunday in Philadelphia, when he took a sack that forced Baltimore out of field goal range.
"I think he had about five throwaways this past game, which as coaches, we applaud," Urban said. "He should have thrown the ball away and not taken that sack that took us out of field goal range. He made a poor decision on that play, but on many other plays, he's making wise decisions to not take a sack or make a bad play worse."
Jackson's ability to improvise is one of the things that makes him special. During the past two weeks, Jackson has made a few more sidearm throws than usual. Some have of those sidearm tosses have found the mark, like his touchdown flick to Nick Boyle in Philadelphia.
But some other sidearm tosses have not worked out, and Jackson has overthrown several long passes to Marquise Brown that could've been long completions. That has led to discussion about Jackson's throwing mechanics. Urban doesn't see Jackson's sidearm tosses as an issue.
"The one thing I know, is he's done that for a very long time," Urban said. "I'm more concerned about his base, his platform and the biomechanics of the delivery than some of those things that he does great naturally. I know there are some other players around this league that get publicized for how amazing it is that they can throw side-armed. I'm not going to try to coach him out of making a consistent, accurate throw. If it occurs to his brain to throw that shallow cross into a window that not many people can do, and throw a little side-armed and it's an accurate throw, then I'm not concerned about the arm angle."
Jackson isn't concerned either and took exception when asked if his mechanics were slipping.
"I don't think I've slipped," Jackson said. "It's certain situations in the game when you have to throw in certain windows, guys putting their arms up trying to slap the ball. I'm trying to find angles, that's why sometimes my elbow drops trying to get the ball out."
Asked if he saw Jackson's throwing base breaking down, Urban said, "I don't see that at all."
Coaches and Teammates Work to Help Miles Boykin
Following two straight games where Miles Boykin and Jackson have miscommunicated on a pass intended for Boykin, they've been working to fix the problem. Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach David Culley believes the issue has been corrected.
"Miles heard one thing and Lamar said another thing," Culley said. "It's our responsibility when we're in the huddle to make sure we're hearing and listening to what he's saying. That's happened a couple of times. That's on us to make sure we know when we come out of the huddle exactly what he's calling. We corrected that."
Culley said Boykin (11 catches, 122 yards, no touchdowns) may be pressing to live up to higher expectations in his second season.
"He puts a little bit of pressure on himself to want to always do everything right," Culley said. "We've talked about that. He's really working on this, just going out and reacting, not worrying about being right or being wrong about things. I think he's done a really good job of doing that this year. Unfortunately, he had two communications errors right there that looked like set him back a little bit."
Jackson said he and Boykin were willing to put in extra work that will help them after the bye.
"It starts in practice," Jackson said. "Getting together, work after practice, see what he likes and what he doesn't. Making his job a lot easier and mine as well."
Hewitt Believes Dorsey and Bonds Ready for Bigger Roles
The loss of cornerback Anthony Averett for an extended period due to a shoulder injury gives Khalil Dorsey and/or Terrell Bonds an opportunity for more playing time. Pass Defense Coordinator Chris Hewitt believes both are ready.
Dorsey was undrafted out of Northern Arizona and has played in the past four games, almost exclusively on special teams. He took four defensive snaps against Washington. Bonds was undrafted out of Tennessee State in 2018 and spent last year on the Ravens' practice squad.
"They're both great young players, have a lot of speed, extremely quick," Hewitt said. "They're more suited to play inside as a nickel. They just need the opportunity to go out there and get the experience. They go out there every week in practice and make plays. You know how we think around here, it's next man up. Those guys will ready to go at any point."
Chris Board Is Having His Best Season
Inside linebacker Chris Board leads the team in special teams snaps, and he's also becoming a greater presence on defense with 38 snaps this year.
He continues his climb as an undrafted free agent in 2018 from North Dakota State. Board was competing for a starting job in training camp last year before a concussion set him back, but Linebackers coach Mike Macdonald thinks Board is playing his best football this season.
"I'm really happy for Chris and where he's going. He's on a great trajectory," Macdonald said. "We know he's a heck of a special teams player. He could probably be a Pro Bowl special teams player this year with all the tackles he's making. But he has a role on this defense. I'd say the biggest difference is just his confidence. The guy plays fast, he plays physical. Once he started to make some plays in live situations, you kind of see a light bulb come on – 'Hey I can go out and do this thing.' He's been great for us."