When will Baltimore Ravens let Lamar Jackson really play quarterback? – NFL Nation

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since the day the Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson, team officials have made it clear what position the Heisman Trophy winner plays:

  • “He’s not a running back,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a quarterback.”

  • “Lamar is a quarterback,” quarterbacks coach James Urban said. “He is a quarterback.”

  • “[He’s] a talented, talented guy — but he’s a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “Done.”

So, nine games into the season, why haven’t the Ravens allowed Jackson to really play quarterback?

When it has come to meaningful playing time, Jackson has basically run the Wildcat. In his handful of plays per game, he is taking the snap and executing the read-option, which has been the Ravens’ most effective way in running the ball but has done very little in helping him make strides as a potential franchise quarterback.

Setting aside his mop-up time against the Bills and Panthers, Jackson has played 39 snaps at quarterback and has thrown a total of five passes. Only one of those passes has come from inside the pocket.

“They haven’t featured him enough, in my opinion, in their passing game,” said Matt Bowen of ESPN’s NFL Matchup Show. “That’s the biggest thing in terms of his development. Everyone knows he’s a phenomenal athlete and can be used in quarterback-designed runs. There is no way to measure how many steps he’s taken forward yet because he hasn’t had enough experience throwing from the pocket this season.”

The Ravens could be leaning toward expanding Jackson’s role in the final seven games of the regular season. Baltimore isn’t getting much of out its running backs (they’re collectively averaging 3.5 yards per carry), and the passing game has sputtered since defenses have taken away John Brown.

After scoring a total of 60 points during a three-game losing streak, the Ravens are in dire need of a spark on offense. Perhaps that’s why Harbaugh said he wanted to see more of Jackson.

“When I say I want him on the field more, it’s because he’s such a good player,” Harbaugh said, “and you want to put your good players on the field.”

Some of Jackson’s most extensive work at quarterback came two weeks ago in Carolina, where he came into the fourth quarter with Baltimore trailing 36-14. Jackson completed 4-of-5 passes for 46 yards against albeit soft coverage by the Panthers, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst.

Asked if the Ravens are getting more confident in letting Jackson throw the ball more often, Urban said, “The National Football League is like if you put food on the plate and you eat it, then you get more food. So, he’s had success on a couple, so we’ll continue to find ways to get him to contribute. Whether that’s running the ball, passing the ball or catching the ball — we’ll do whatever we have to do to try to win.”

Harbaugh and Mornhinweg have both said practice time is devoted to that week’s game plan, which means Jackson’s reps are devoted to his speciality plays and scout team. The time that helps Jackson’s growth comes afterward.

Jackson spends about 30 minutes with Urban and Robert Griffin III, going over fundamentals. The drills focus on dropbacks, footwork and throwing motion. As Urban put it, Jackson is “honing the skills of being an NFL passer.”

Asked where Jackson has improved the most since the start of the season, Urban said, “Consistency and repeating the motion, repeating the footwork, repeating the finish, all those things, and that’s where it’s grown. [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.”

His limited pass attempts causes speculation that the Ravens don’t believe he’s polished enough. In the preseason, Jackson looked raw at times, completing only half of his passes.

Based on what Harbaugh said, it looks as if Jackson is going to get more than his usual six snaps per game. Harbaugh acknowledged that the team has considered giving entire series to Jackson during games.

That type of experience would go a long way in removing the enigma label from Jackson.

“If I’m a coach, I don’t know yet,” Bowen said in terms of what Jackson has shown as a passer. “For me to know, I have to get him on the field in meaningful game situations and I have to see him run a couple of series where he has to manage the offense through the up and down of the series.”

Jackson is the only quarterback drafted in the first round this year not to get a start. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen have combined for 25 starts, but they’ve won a total of eight games.

Unlike the Browns, Jets, Bills and Cardinals, the Ravens aren’t ready to go in full rebuild mode just yet. If Baltimore beats Cincinnati after the bye, the Ravens could find themselves in the thick of the AFC wild-card race again.

Until the Ravens are eliminated from postseason contention, it’ll be interesting to see just how much they’ll use Jackson going forward.

“We’re evaluating everything, in terms of that,” Urban said. “[If the Ravens give Jackson an entire series at quarterback], 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. That’s how we start with everything.”

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