Getting better after an MVP season is a difficult proposition, but Lamar Jackson is attacking it head on.
Jackson was given a day off from practice Saturday, but his desire to improve daily never turns off. Quarterbacks Coach James Urban is entering his third season working with Jackson, and as the young quarterback continues his growth, Urban mentioned improved accuracy from the pocket as one point of emphasis.
Keep in mind, Jackson completed 66.1 percent of his passes last season (up from 58.2 percent as a rookie), had a quarterback rating of 113.3, and led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes. The bar has been set high, but Jackson and Urban will continue to push. If Jackson becomes even more proficient as a pocket passer, his ability to dominate games as a dual threat will grow.
"All of the high-end, great players whether it's basketball, or football – you talk about Brett Favre and Joe Montana and all those guys, it's always putting more tricks in your bag," Urban said. "Basketball, they learn how to shoot a jump shot. Then they learn a fadeaway.
"We're never going to lose the ability for him to take the ball and run like he does, and that great natural ability. We don't want to coach him out of that. But we do want to improve the pocket passing consistency. The accuracy is there. We just want to always chase perfection. The improvement of certain types of throws, and then becoming more consistent with making those types of throws."
Jackson has thrown the ball sharply for the most part during training camp, building on the foundation that was built last year. Even though Jackson is the reining MVP, Urban said they started at the beginning with the fundamentals, such as Jackson's stance, when he reported to camp.
"Third year with him, what I have noticed is he is much further along and was much faster to get up to speed, in terms of the body mechanically and throwing and accuracy, and those things," Urban said. "He looks like he's going into his third year of playing."
Matt Skura Looks Good as Activity Ramps Up
Continuing to make strides in his speedy recovery from major knee surgery, center Matt Skura participated in full-team drills Saturday for the first time in training camp.
Skura had previously been limited to individual/position-group work since being removed from the PUP list. His goal is to be ready for Week 1, and Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris liked what he saw.
"It's nice to see him back from that injury," D'Alessandris said. "He practiced real well for us today. He's coming on."
Patrick Ricard's Tight End Skills Are an Asset
The trade of Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons creates an opportunity for a No. 3 tight end to become more involved behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. Jerell Adams, Charles Scarff and Eli Wolf are vying for that role, but Pro Bowl fullback Pat Ricard should not be overlooked.
Ricard's devastating blocking is a key to the Ravens' running attack, but Baltimore utilized tight ends on 42 percent of its passes last season, the most in the NFL in the last 35 years, according to footballoutsiders.com.
If the Ravens decide to use Ricard as an in-line tight end more frequently in their various formations, Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram is sure Ricard will handle it well. Ricard's versatility has already been proven as a player who has lined up at fullback and defensive tackle, as well as on special teams.
"He's in our room every day," Engram said. "It's not your traditional tight end, obviously, but we're just seeing other ways he can help us. Pat's smart, he's handling a lot of information, he's a physical guy. You know how we like to run the football. Anything that we can do to expand his role is going to be a plus for the Ravens."
Running Backs Coach Sees Beauty in Four-Deep Backfield
The Ravens' decision to draft rookie J.K. Dobbins adds riches to an already talented backfield. Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Dobbins have different styles, and all of them can stay fresh due to the running back depth.
When he looks at his group, Running Backs Coach Matt Weiss doesn't think sharing touches will be a problem for a team that relies on its ground attack more than any other in the NFL.
"We have tremendous diversity of skill," Weiss said. "I think it helps in terms of synergy and making sure we get the most out of the position. There's an African proverb you guys have probably heard. 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.'
"I think that's the mindset of our room. All these guys, I truly believe they would all start on most NFL teams. If any of them ran alone in our offense, they would have a chance to lead the league in rushing. But our team wouldn't go as far. I think they all have that mindset. They're better together."
Weiss said the running backs took a trip together to Brazil (before Covid and Dobbins was drafted), illustrating how tight-knit the group is off the field as well.
Ingram Like Fine Wine at Running Back
Ingram has three 1,000-yard seasons, and all have come during the last four years. Entering his 10th season at age 30, Ingram doesn't want to hear talk about his skills deteriorating. He put himself through a grueling offseason working regimen under the guidance of a personnel trainer in South Florida.
Weiss doesn't think we've seen the best of Ingram, coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he rushed for 1,018 yards, averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns.
"I think Mark is ascending," Weiss said. "There (are) aging curves at every position, and obviously the running back aging curve is a steep one. But I also think there (are) aging curves for every skillset. We know speed deteriorates the fastest. When I look at Mark's skillset and why he's good; he's super athletic, he's powerful, he has great vision, great contact balance. None of those things deteriorate quickly with age. In fact, many of them get better with age."