Ravens Quarterbacks Coach James Urban works with Lamar Jackson daily, in a process that starts before practice, continues during practice, and often extends after practice with extra reps.
Urban says the hard work is paying off. The young quarterback that Urban sees is a more polished thrower than the player who reported to Ravens rookie camp in May.
“Consistency – consistency and repeating the motion, repeating the footwork, repeating the finish, all those things, and that’s where it’s grown,” Urban said. “[He’s] much more consistent. That’s what we’re trying to get to: Can you repeat the motion? He’s working hard at it.”
The Ravens are expected to utilize Jackson more after the bye, and his development could be crucial to the team’s success, both this year and long-term. Jackson’s athletic gifts are obvious, but the key to his career rests with his ability to become more proficient as a pocket passer.
“At some point, to play in this league – great natural ability and running and all this – you have to be able to drop back and throw it,” Urban said. “So that’s why we do all the stuff that we do.”
Urban says he enjoys working with Jackson, who believes in himself whether he makes a mistake or a terrific throw. That swagger is important for any quarterback, because playing the position makes you an easy target for criticism.
In Week 8 against Carolina, Jackson threw a terrible one-hop incompletion when Willie Snead IV was wide open. However, Jackson recovered to throw a perfect strike to Hayden Hurst for a touchdown late in the game. The Panthers defense was playing a little soft at that point, as Head Coach John Harbaugh put it, but it was still a nice drive and throw.
That resiliency, along with more consistency, is what Ravens’ coaches want to see.
“He’s a confident, young man,” Urban said. “There’s no lacking there in his ability. I do believe he’s becoming more and more confident with the way we want things done – that’s really where the growth has shown.”
This is Urban’s 15th season as an NFL assistant coach, but his first season with the Ravens. He spent the past seven seasons as a wide receivers coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. Prior to that, Urban spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, the final two seasons as their quarterbacks coach.
The debate over how much to play Jackson and how his playing time impacts Joe Flacco and the entire offense will continue. Urban experienced the same thing in Philadelphia when Michael Vick was sometimes used as a situational quarterback behind Donovan McNabb. Urban expects Flacco and Jackson to handle the situation well, as they have done up this point.
“Joe wants to win football games and is willing to do whatever he has to do to win football games,” Urban said. “As much as you allow it to be a distraction, it’ll be a distraction. Joe has been great with that. He sees the production. He sees the plays that we’ve been able to use and utilize and understands that we’re just trying to get our best players out on the field to help us win.”
If Jackson plays more after the bye, everyone watching will be able to judge how much he has progressed. Harbaugh said Jackson could play an entire series at times, something he has not done up to this point. The Ravens need wins, and if playing Jackson more over the last seven games will help, Urban said everyone in the building is on board.
“Look – we’re evaluating everything, in terms of that,” Urban said of the rookie taking a full series. “I do know that it would not be done to benefit Lamar Jackson. It would be done to benefit the Baltimore Ravens, and our offense trying to score points and get the ball in the end zone. If that decision is made, that’s why that decision would be made."