As the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Game quickly approaches, Ravens fans anticipate the debut of Heisman winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson was the center of much debate entering the draft, with some citing that he should transition to wide receiver for the NFL. With a career completion percentage of 57, many experts were concerned with Jackson’s accuracy throwing the football. However, with Joe Flacco as the clear starter for the Ravens in 2018, Jackson will have time to develop and improve his mechanics.
Jackson has the benefit of learning from former Heisman winner and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, who Baltimore signed earlier in the offseason. Griffin III was similar to Jackson coming out of college, but injuries quickly derailed his promising career in the NFL.
Jackson will also learn from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback coach James Urban, who both have experience working with quarterbacks Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Jackson has been compared to Vick, who enjoyed several successful years as a dual-threat quarterback in the NFL with Atlanta and Philadelphia.
“He gets better everyday. I keep seeing growth in all the different areas that we talk about. One of the important things that we talk about is consistency,” Ravens quarterback coach James Urban said. “In our drill work, you can see the growth and then sometimes when the bullets are flying so to speak he reverts back to what he knows, so improving that consistency of doing it all the time.”
One of Jackson’s biggest flaws coming out of college was his accuracy. Many have pointed to his mechanics and footwork as a factor for his errant throws.
“Yeah, some of it’s mechanical, some of it’s understanding exactly the route and the route concept. So much of that timing is how does it feel to the quarterback,” Urban said.
Since being drafted by Baltimore, controversy has brewed over whether Jackson should start this season. Flacco is entering his 11th season in Baltimore, and the former Super Bowl MVP has under performed the last three years, which has led to an outcry of criticism.
Whether Flacco’s dip in play can be attributed to injuries or lack of talent surrounding him is another discussion, but the fact is that many Ravens fans yearn for change after missing the playoffs for three straight years. This puts Jackson in the spotlight for the preseason, where fans desperately anticipate his debut, but what should they expect from him?
“I want him to compete. Play the game, and then I want completions ... throw it to the open guy and when not, let your great natural ability take over,” Urban Said.
The calls for Jackson to start over Flacco will intensify if Jackson has a successful preseason, and with five preseason games ahead, he will get plenty of playing time to show if he’s ready to challenge Flacco for the starting role or if he needs more time to develop.
“Success would be improvement from game one all the way through game five, and then we’ll have a better understanding exactly where he is,” Urban said.
Jackson’s long awaited debut will finally arrive this Thursday, as the polarizing first-round pick will take on the Bears. While nowhere close to a real NFL game, the Hall of Fame Game will still offer a valuable first look at Jackson’s abilities against an opposing NFL defense. Jackson was arguably the most exciting and electrifying player in this year’s draft, so the entire nation will be watching closely.