With the Baltimore Ravens trading two second-round picks to select quarterback Lamar Jackson, it leaves many wondering when exactly he will take over for current starter Joe Flacco. The truth is, we just don’t know. Worst case scenario is it happens this year due to the team struggling. Best case scenario is either 2019 or 2020, after the Ravens make the playoffs with Flacco and maybe getting something in return for him, or he just retires on a happy note. For now, however, the Ravens coaching staff seem to really want to get Jackson involved in the offense as soon as possible, which has led to of course the possibility of Jackson being involved in other packages on the offense.
Part of Baltimore’s offensive coaching staff consists of Marty Mornhinweg, James Urban, and Greg Roman. Both Mornhinweg and Urban worked with Michael Vick in Philadelphia, who is a quarterback some have compared Jackson to, while Roman worked with Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor. These quarterbacks have a similar skill set to the new Raven, and have been used in specific packages in the past before becoming starters. In Vick’s case, it was before he took over as the starter in 2010 for an injured Kevin Kolb after he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. They can operate Jackson as a receiver, running back, or even quarterback, and to me, it’s not the right way to use him.
During rookie mini-camp, Mornhinweg stated that Flacco is the quarterback for 2018, which is something the staff has been adamant about. For Jackson though, the teams offensive coordinator said that Jackson's ability to potentiality play multiple positions was a “positive”. He also stated
“I certainly think he’s so talented that he could do a lot of different things, in athletics in general. He’s a talented, talented guy, but he’s a quarterback. Done. That’s sort of the way I viewed it.”
There was some talk of Jackson not playing quarterback before the draft, but that was shot down immediately by himself and his camp. If Baltimore does use Jackson in a wildcat style offense similar to Kordell Stewart with the Pittsburgh Steelers or even Tim Tebow with the Denver Broncos before they took over as the starting quarterback, they are playing with fire. On the field, not many teams are fooled anymore by this type of offense, and while you might see Jackson rush for a big gain or catch a pass from Flacco here and there, more often than not the play will result in a loss or potentially even kill a drive. That’s something the Ravens offense doesn’t need entering 2018.
Mind games also play a factor. Jackson has stated that he is a quarterback, and wants to be used as such. With him being the future, do the Ravens really want to mess with his head so early on by focusing on positions not the one he was drafted to play? It could also mentally hurt Flacco in what is a very critical season for him. The New York Jets tried this in 2012 with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, resulting in an unmitigated disaster that benefited nobody.
Another thing, and this might be the most important one of all and something the Ravens have been dealing with far too often over the last several years, is injuries. With Jackson lining up as a receiver or a running back, you are leaving what you hope to be your future franchise quarterback out to take shots from NFL defensive players. Any type of injury, whether it’s to the leg or worst of all his throwing shoulder, could linger with Jackson as the years go on. Him having any kind of surgery would be devastating. Baltimore should not want to see a guy they spent two second-round picks to trade up and grab him laying on the field with an injury that will hurt his future. Especially when he never should be in that position in the first place.
For the Ravens, it’s best to just leave Jackson as a quarterback and let him focus on learning the position, and that position only. Let him sit and learn under the coaching staff and Flacco so when he does take over, he will be ready to go. It maybe exciting for a lot of fans to see him on the field in some capacity by being involved in gadget plays, but for his sake and what’s good for the franchise, it’s best to just leave him alone. Like Mornhinweg said, “He’s a quarterback. Done.”