Zay Flowers Discusses Impact Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr. Have Had on Him
Zay Flowers has been everything and more that the Ravens expected of him when they made the speedy wide receiver the No. 22-overall selection in the draft.
Flowers led the AFC's top-seeded team in receptions (77) and receiving yards (858), both of which are franchise rookie records.
He discussed his journey and reflected on his rookie season in a sit-down interview on “The Pivot Podcast.” Here are some highlights:
On the impact teammates Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr. have had on him: "O and L are real big on God. We pray right before the game. We do a little prayer with all the receivers. The group I'm in with the receivers, they're like big brothers to me. They just tell you how it is, like, 'Bro, you're the one. You gotta go make the plays. This drive is gonna be on you. Go make that play because you're that guy.' Just having them believe in me that way makes it easier to believe in myself. … Every time we step on the field, L tells us, 'Play like you're playing in little league. We're going to find you and we're gonna make the plays.'"
On Jackson scrambling during games: "We practice it, but in a game it's different. Because once he breaks out on a scramble, he can go left and then he'll run back right, so you'll be running one way, and then you'll start running back the other way again. Or he'll just take off and now you're blocking. So you never really know what you're going to get from him. I just say stay alive. I look around as soon as I see him about to break, sometimes I get caught up watching him, I ain't gonna lie. I'm like, 'Damn, he just did that?' Sometimes I can't believe it. 'Damn how'd he do that?' Sometimes I just turn around, go find green grass, and I know he's going to find me. He's going to put it up there any type of way he can — throwing across his body, underhand, however he has to get it done, he's gonna get it done."
On playing for Head Coach John Harbaugh: "He cares about his players. He'll come up to you and talk to you one on one. He'll talk to the practice squad guys one on one. One of my friends on the practice squad, [Harbaugh] called him and just told him, 'You had a good week this week. Keep doing what you're doing. I'm seeing a lot of progress.' So doing that to your players, it makes everybody more confident, or just believing what you're preaching or you're teaching. Because if you have a coach that ain't preaching the way he's teaching, then nobody's going to want to play for him. Harbaugh lives by his word, so all his players love playing for him."
On being a Raven: "The Ravens probably were the best fit for me. Not even just football, but city-wise, too. … I'm locked in on what I have to do, and we're winning, so it's going perfect for me. And in the building, everybody is genuine. I'm a genuine person. I'm gonna talk, I'm gonna laugh with everybody. So when I walked in the building on my pre-draft meetings, we didn't even talk about football. They were asking about family, we played basketball, ate, hung out with some of the coaches. That was probably the only place where I felt like, 'Yeah, I can see myself playing there for a while.'"
On preparing for the playoffs during the bye week: "I'm recovering. I'm getting right. I ain't even going outside. Practice, home, practice, home — that's all I'm doing."
ESPN Analyst: Offseason Additions to Coaching Staff Have Played Important Role in Ravens' Success
As noted in yesterday’s Late for Work, Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, and Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver are drawing interest from teams searching for a new head coach. However, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said the importance of other members of the coaching staff should not be overlooked.
Specifically, Riddick pointed to the following under-the-radar additions Harbaugh made in the offseason to bolster his staff: Greg Lewis (wide receivers coach), Chuck Smith (outside linebackers), Willie Taggart (running backs) and Dennard Wilson (defensive backs). Harbaugh also shifted former receivers coach Tee Martin to quarterbacks coach.
Riddick said on “Glenn Clark Radio” that Martin has played a key role in Jackson taking his game to another level this season.
"That is a huge, huge under-the-radar move that is paying off," Riddick said of Martin's move to quarterbacks coach. "I can't say that it is contributed to a certain number of percentage points or certain increase in efficiency for Lamar, but I can tell you this: The relationship between [Jackson] and with Tee and what Tee can help him with in real time during game because he played the position, it's invaluable. And it's all clicking together."
Riddick credited Lewis with "tapping into the potential" of the wide receiving corps. He also said the addition of Wilson and Smith have paid dividends for the defense.
"Dennard Wilson is working magic back there in the secondary with all the injuries that they have had," Riddick said. "Chuck Smith has taken Jadeveon Clowney and raised his game, taken it to another level. Kyle Van Noy, he comes from a winning program but he has bought into the kind of culture John has established here. This is what makes personnel acquisitions all the better — when you already have a great culture. Then you add some great coaches. Then you add great character people. That's why this team is the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That's why they are. It's not an accident."
Ranking the Most Important Ravens Heading Into the Playoffs
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer ranked the 20 most important Ravens heading into the playoffs. Not surprisingly, Jackson, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, and safety Kyle Hamilton took the top three spots.
Here's a look at some other players and where they landed on the list:
- OLB Jadeveon Clowney
"Clowney tied a career high with 9.5 sacks this season, and he should have had a handful more. The former No. 1 overall pick has the fifth-highest pass rush win rate among NFL edge rushers, according to ESPN, despite drawing a double-team on a quarter of his snaps. He's brought a no-holds-barred physicality to the position, punishing quarterbacks who've stayed in the pocket for one beat too many. Every Super Bowl-caliber defense needs at least one premium pass rusher; Clowney is the closest thing the Ravens have to it."
- WR Beckham
"Beckham had a modest-for-him 2023: 35 catches for 565 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. But when he signed his one-year, $15 million deal in the spring, the hope was that the 31-year-old's play would peak in the winter. At his introductory news conference in April, General Manager Eric DeCosta called Beckham 'probably the best player on the field' at Super Bowl LVI, where a torn ACL ended a productive postseason run for the Los Angeles Rams. Beckham, finally healthy, has flashed his game-breaking ability at points this season. The Ravens may need every bit of it to get over the postseason hump this month."
- TE Isaiah Likely
"Likely has turned into one of the NFL's most dangerous tight ends since Mark Andrews hurt his ankle in Week 11. Over the last seven weeks of the regular season, Likely was tied for eighth at the position in receiving yards (322), second in receiving touchdowns (five) and second in yards per catch (15.3). With Andrews' timetable for a return to action uncertain, Likely should remain one of Jackson's top targets over the middle. Especially if he can keep making highlight-reel, one-hand catches and jump-ball grabs."
- WR Rashod Bateman
"The 2021 first-round pick is getting open like a WR1 should — just look at PFF and ESPN's tracking data. The next step is converting that separation into production. Bateman has just 32 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown this season, but he had a season-high four catches for 54 yards in Week 17 against the Dolphins. If Bateman and Jackson can improve their chemistry on downfield shots — they've combined for more interceptions (two) than completions (one) on their 12 deep targets — the Ravens' passing game could hit another level."
Jackson Is Only Raven Named to Pro Football Focus' All-Pro First Team
Pro Football Focus selected its All-Pro team, and Jackson was the only Raven to make the first team.
"Jackson is a near lock to win his second MVP award, not just because of his own performance but also the stress he puts on opposing defenses with his rushing ability," PFF's Gordon McGuinness wrote. "He ended the 2023 regular season with a 90.3 PFF overall grade and an 85.1 PFF passing grade, both career highs."
Smith and Hamilton were named to the second team.