The Ravens’ 2018 training camp featured more excitement than we’ve seen from the team during the offseason in the past few years. In only a quick comparison, last season the Ravens lost Joe Flacco days before camp due to a back injury and practices featured Ryan Mallett as the starting quarterback. There were injuries on a near-daily basis and hope dwindled with each passing day. This season, there’s been furor surrounding the Under Armour Performance Center as three great storylines developed from the quarterback position alone.
Beginning with the incumbent starter, Joe Flacco’s job became a national conversation the moment Baltimore ended the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by trading up with the Philadelphia Eagles for the 32nd overall pick, selecting Lamar Jackson. This move made fans question whether the Super Bowl MVP was slated for the starting role or if their newly acquired Heisman-winning talent was the immediate future. Since then, we’ve watched Flacco produce highlight after highlight in camp and he capped off his first preseason appearance with a 10-play, 75-yard drive against the Los Angeles Rams that ended with a touchdown pass to fullback Patrick Ricard. As all local media and the team has stated, Joe is the starting quarterback and he’s currently the best one at the facility.
More importantly, the way Flacco has handled the addition of Jackson has demonstrated he’s not a player who focuses on himself first, but the team first.
”Everybody just wants to talk about [not reaching out to Lamar after the draft] and they want to act like I’m holding some grudge and that’s not how it is,” Flacco said. “I think you guys have been around me for a long time and you know the way I am and we welcome Lamar here with open arms and that’s the same for me.”
Flacco is confident in himself and his skills on the gridiron, which we should all celebrate rather than shame. He was asked if he thinks he’ll get sick of having to answer questions about the rookie every week and he responded to the question with confidence.
”No. I don’t, because I think we’re going to win and we’re not going to hear about it,” Flacco said.
The response isn’t a shot at his teammate, it’s a bet on himself, and the last time he pushed all-in, he tied the greatest postseason numbers by a quarterback with Joe Montana.
The buzz regarding Jackson unseating Flacco wasn’t a ridiculous claim, in the beginning, it was the excitement for a new player with an impressive resume. Jackson isn’t just another first-round quarterback; he won a Heisman trophy in 2016 and produced 9,000 yards and 69 touchdowns in three years with the Louisville Cardinals. He’s a capable passer and runner whose skill-set can translate into the pros.
While all his skills and stats make him look ready for the next step, there’s a learning curve and a heightened skill-level across the board. These are the best of the best in the NFL and the game-speed alone increases the difficulty. Jackson was asked about if the speed of the NFL surprised him after his first preseason game against the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game.
”Definitely,” Jackson said. “I was going to the sideline one play [and] a linebacker caught me from behind. I was like, “Oh yeah, you have to run full speed with these guys.’ It was pretty intense.”
But even with the increased game speed level, Jackson isn’t considering whether or not he should quit running.
”No, I’m just trying to win anyway, any way possible,” he said. “I’m going to try not to run; I’m going to throw the ball or run. The game speed is totally different from different. All 11 [players] are running to the ball. There’s no one back there jogging, trying to take a break. All 11 are there to the ball. People are trying to feed their families. It’s a grown man game.”
Jackson is close to becoming a starter in the league, but he’s not quite there yet. The Ravens have the luxury of keeping him off-the-field for his first year and developing his talents further, benefiting not only Jackson but the franchise also.
The saga of Robert Griffin III is something larger than I can summarize here, but it’s been a journey. He took Washington to the playoffs, suffered bad knee injuries, his franchise mismanaged him, he joined the Cleveland Browns and last year wasn’t even on a team in the NFL. But now he’s back and looking good for the Ravens.
Since joining the Ravens as a backup quarterback, we’ve watched Griffin produce quality reps and mentor the rookie, even saying he sees Jackson as a younger brother. He’s battled hard to get back to the NFL and now he’s throwing touchdown passes to Breshad Perriman.
The big question is whether Ravens fans will see him continue his career in Baltimore, or if another team is willing to find a spot for the quarterback on their roster. Fans’ opinions are split on whether to keep the veteran and hope he continues providing guidance for Jackson (and keep the young gun from playing in the event Flacco suffers an injury), or see if the Ravens can roll with just Flacco and Jackson, freeing up a roster spot for depth elsewhere while also allowing Griffin to find success with another franchise.
Not only have the storylines kept fans tuning in, but the quality of all three quarterbacks’ play intensifies these narratives.
- Flacco and his confidence of winning
- Jackson’s hard work and dynamic playmaking
- RGIII isn’t just another comeback story; he’s producing on the field
All three stories are just beginning, too.
On September 1, we’ll all find out whether the Ravens will keep two or three quarterbacks. This will show just how much faith the Ravens have in RGIII and how badly they want him on the roster. If he leaves, the story doesn’t just end for him there but begins somewhere else. I’m confident Ravens fans will tune in, regardless of his uniforms’ color.
Just more than one week after roster cuts, the regular season begins for the Ravens on Sept. 9, in which Baltimore will host the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium. This will be the beginning of Flacco showcasing his confidence in winning and Jackson’s development getting taken to the next level. Whether the team wins or loses in Week 1, there’s going to be commotion.
The offseason stories of these quarterbacks have captivated an audience that hasn’t felt energized in recent years. The offense looks capable of scoring and there’s an aura of excitement as the team is turning the corner and finding its way back to the playoffs. The Ravens’ journey in 2018 is set to be an exciting journey.