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Opinion: Ravens are grooming QB Lamar Jackson for 2018

2018 NFL Draft - Red Carpet Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

When the Baltimore Ravens picked Hayden Hurst in the first round, after trading down twice and skipping on multiple blue-chip defensive players, fans were nervous but excited to finally witness the Ravens address key positions on the offensive side of the ball. But we all didn’t realize how serious the team was taking it until pick 32 when the Ravens traded back into the first round for QB Lamar Jackson.

Since draft night, the Ravens have become the media’s automatic drama source with every pass thrown by either Joe Flacco or Jackson. So much to where everybody forgot Lamar wasn’t even the Ravens first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Good for Hurst, though, as he won’t be under the intense pressure of being a first-round pick.

But, back to the title and purpose. Fans are excited for Lamar, but many, including myself, believed he wouldn’t step onto the field until 2019 when Joe is cut/traded from the Ravens due to the egregious cap hit ($26.5 million). Now, I believe the Ravens are preparing the quarterback for the upcoming season, as opposed to a year in the back seat.

Yes, Lamar is the same cliché adjectives we all have called him: electric, dynamic, explosive and playmaking, but he’s also smart, talented and was one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks coming out of college.

Jackson didn’t just run around at Louisville; though he did abuse defenses with his running ability, he also threw 57 touchdowns to only 19 interceptions in his last two seasons.

While the Michael Vick comparisons have their validity, somebody I notice with a similar play-style and college production is the 2015 NFL MVP, Cam Newton.

Comparing Lamar Jackson to Cam Newton

Player Completions Attempts Comp. %age Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rush Attempts R. Yards R. Touchdowns
Player Completions Attempts Comp. %age Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rush Attempts R. Yards R. Touchdowns
Cam Newton 185 280 66.1 2854 30 7 264 1473 20
Lamar Jackson 230 409 56.2 3543 30 9 260 1571 21

Cam was once looked at as ‘immature’ and couldn’t sustain his play-style at the professional level, yet he won the NFL MVP award and if not for the nightmare known as Von Miller, he’d have a Lombardi in his trophy case. Cam Newton is an NFL quarterback and I believe Lamar’s skillset is comparable. No, he’s not the freight-train like Cam, but Newton is a freak. A 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback is bewildering. Lamar isn’t small by any standards, though, at 6-2 and 216 pounds.

Minicamp has gone well for both Flacco and Jackson. Many reported Joe looked sharper than ever, with tight spirals hitting receivers on target. But now, on the final day of mandatory minicamp, the Ravens let Lamar Jackson receive the majority of snaps with the first-team offense.

The Ravens signed three wide receivers in free agency, drafted two more, and also picked two tight-ends in the first three rounds of the draft. These are players Joe Flacco has not stepped on to the field with much. These are players he should be building a rapport with, but on the final day of minicamp, they aren’t strengthening chemistry with their expected starting quarterback? The coaches, instead, opted for Lamar Jackson to receive the majority of snaps.

Maybe the Ravens brass wants more film of their young quarterback in their system, but it is hard to find a strong reason as to why the Ravens didn’t play Joe more on the final day. It may ‘just be minicamp’, but snaps and reps with your starting quarterback are important.

To me, this shows the Ravens love Lamar’s skill-set. He’s not just a player who can produce gadget-plays and gimmicks. On the final day, they gave him the keys to run it and he produced the teams’ top play of the day with a touchdown pass to UDFA Jaelon Acklin. He is a first-round quarterback and he’s fighting for the spot against Flacco. It’s going to be tough for the Ravens come August and September.