It’s currently the point of the NFL offseason when teams are going through their lightly padded practices, in which playbooks are installed and the rust is shaken off prior to training camp further into the summer. Not coincidentally, this is also the peak time of year for reports that players are in the best shape of their lives, fringe wide receivers are supposedly catching everything and highly touted rookies are catching the eyes of the established veterans.
In Baltimore, that is very much the case this year for many well regarded prospects picked towards the top of Ozzie Newsome’s final draft in charge of the front office. In terms of profile and resume, one of them stands above the rest - former Louisville Cardinal and current backup quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson’s rare athleticism is one of his greatest strengths and is part of what got him drafted at number 32 overall by Baltimore. Naturally, they’re already trying to find ways to utilize it to get him onto the field in what is expected to be a redshirt rookie season. When he does eventually take over, we’ll likely look back at some of the praise currently being heaped onto him from players throughout the roster.
“It’s been giving us some problems on some of their plays,” said veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley. “He’s just a natural runner. Once he gets out of the pocket it’s like a young Michael Vick, which is amazing to watch. So when you’re defending him, it’s like you’re tagging off because you don’t want to end up on the highlight reel. It’s fun to watch him, and he has a great long ball too so it’s good to see him out there making plays and being comfortable.”
That’s high praise coming from a perennial Pro Bowler, and the sentiment was largely echoed by third year receiver Chris Moore:
“Lamar, he’s a freak. Just what he can do on the field, you can tell that he’s gonna be somebody special in this league. Every time he runs I’m in awe because most people, especially a quarterback, can’t move the way he does so you just know that this year he’s gonna make some plays.”
Moore went on to call inclusion of Jackson into the receiver group on specific packages “smart” because defenses won’t be ready for the different look that he would provide the offense. The jury is still very much out on that, but it would be foolish not to experiment with the idea at this point in the offseason.
At any rate, it’s great to hear Jackson and the unique situation he creates being received so positively by the players in Owings Mills. While the fans have no idea what to expect from the rookie or even if he hits the field in 2018, the fact that he is creating such a buzz this early is good to hear.
The Michael Vick comparisons may be a bit lofty, and the talk of using him in special package plays might die down when the speed picks up and the pads come on, but until then, there seems to be more excitement surrounding the Ravens than there has been in a long time. Of course, it’s all thanks to the backup quarterback. Who would’ve thought?