What will it take for Lamar Jackson to become a more accurate passer? The Ravens have focused on improving Jackson's fundamentals, so he can repeat the footwork, balance and throwing motion it will take to create more consistent results.
"I think fundamentally is where he's going to need to put most of his work into," Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. "I think where to throw the ball and seeing guys open, those are things he naturally has. Those innate abilities have allowed him to get to where he's been. Moving forward, consistent fundamentals are what's really going to take him to the next level."
Jackson's passing ability has been scrutinized since college, despite his individual accomplishments and the success of his teams. The Ravens went 6-2 with Jackson as their starter last season, and at age 22, his development as an NFL quarterback has just begun. As a rookie, Jackson assumed the starting role with the Ravens riding a three-game losing streak and provided a spark that helped changed the direction of their season. How the team responded to Jackson, and his dual-threat skill set as a runner and passer, convinced Roman and many others that Jackson has the talent and intangibles to be a successful franchise quarterback.
"He's got all the ability in the world," Roman said. "He's got the right mindset. Nothing fazes him. He's one heck of a natural leader."
What Roman has seen from Jackson as a passer makes the coach intrigued about his potential. Jackson has enough arm strength. He has the vision. He has the anticipation to sense when receivers are about to break open.
What Jackson didn't have as a rookie was consistency as a thrower – the proficiency to make five or six accurate passes without an errant toss or two mixed in. Jackson completed 60 percent of his passes in just one of his eight starts, and he had a season-low 48.3 completion percentage during the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
During his Tuesday press conference, Roman did not disclose where Jackson had been working this offseason, or who he had been working with. But Roman believes Jackson will make visible improvements in his throwing between now and next season. Roman compared Jackson's vision to the late Steve McNair, the former Pro Bowl quarterback who spent his final two NFL seasons (2006-07) with the Ravens.
"He has a great feel for the game, and he can do things you can't coach," Roman said. "He has really, really good field vision. That's something we noticed last spring. Often he'll just see guys open, he'll see the leverage take place. Not all guys are like that. That's a great starting point. Steve McNair was like that. Steve just had an uncanny ability to see guys that might not have been part of the progression.
"Lamar's working. Before he left there was a good plan put in place. He's young, but he loves to win. I think he has a great perspective on the NFL and what it takes to be successful. Like most great players I've been around, he's probably his harshest critic. And that's a beautiful thing. We'll see him in April when he shows up and I'm sure he'll have another club in his bag."