In his third preseason run-out against an NFL defense, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t look great. In fact, it’s probably fair to say he was bad for much of the game.
Lamar Jackson is 0-for-4 on his first two series. One was throwaway but had an open WR on at least two of the others, if not three.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) August 21, 2018
This was especially true early on as Jackson failed to connect with receivers and looked shaky in the pocket after relieving Joe Flacco. However, things got a bit better after a few series, as Lamar was able to settle in and let it rip a bit more against Indy’s second teamers.
It was sort of a microcosm of the preseason so far for the first rounder; stretches of ineptitude broken up by moments of sheer brilliance. Despite what the instant reaction hot take media might have you believe, this is all well and good for a rookie who has plenty of time to learn and find his footing.
However, there is an aspect of Jackson’s game that has shone through this August: His ability in the red zone. It’s been on display since the Hall of Fame game and has appeared in different ways since.
Jackson’s three preseason touchdowns have come in the red zone, with yet another happening in the game against the Colts on Monday night:
This was maybe the prettiest of the three up to this point, as it showcases the rookies unique athleticism, strong balance and footwork, and, most importantly, the touch and accuracy that he possesses in leaps and bounds. While part of his game he needs to work on is being more consistent with said accuracy, Ryan Mink of the Ravens website made a good point about how he can be utilized in an immediate way:
This is exactly why I like using Lamar Jackson in the red zone. He throws well on the run and is really hard to defend because he can quickly get up field and run it in. That's how he can be a weapon this year.— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) August 21, 2018
This is a nice observation from Mink and outlines how Marty Morninwheg and the offensive staff can use his abilities in 2018. A lot has been made about how the “slash” packages could be a misuse of Jackson, but over these few appearances he has shown it could be the perfect spot role for him this season.
With the touchdown to Moore and the one to Hayden Hurst in the Hall of Fame game, we’ve seen he has the necessary short-to-intermediate touch to go work in front of the end zone, and that’s without mentioning what he can do with his legs. If Jackson has to bail out of a pass play or get himself away from some trouble, his touchdown run against the Rams is a good indication of his ability to do just that:
Morninwheg has been looking for a way to get the rookie onto the field this season and it is beginning to become clear on some of the best ways to use him. Within the opponents 20-yard line he’s flashed the ability to be lethal, and as such the coaching staff should begin looking at ways to get him involved like this.
Based upon what we’ve seen so far in camp and preseason, Joe Flacco is very much the guy for this team at quarterback in 2018. That doesn’t mean they should neglect to use one of their most unique weapons on the team in the red zone, which Lamar has the chance to be in a big way this season.