In his first full year as the starter, Jackson confronts the added pressure of being the face of the franchise and still has plenty of room to grow to prove that his unique skillset translates in the NFL. For Jackson (and ultimately the Ravens) to succeed, he will need support from all areas to fend off the sophomore slump and lead Baltimore to back-to-back AFC North titles. Below are five ways the rest of the team can propel him forward:
#1 Coaches: Open up the playbook
It was apparent in Baltimore’s loss to the Chargers in the Wild Card that the Ravens staff did not have confidence in Lamar’s throwing abilities. A dismal 11.4 QBR in that game would make anyone weary of an aerial attack. However, if Baltimore is going to develop an offensive rhythm and keep Jackson healthy, he simply cannot come close to his average of 17 rush attempts in his seven regular season starts. In his first season as offensive coordinator, Greg Roman will need to prove he trusts Jackson to complete more than quick, short yardage passes.
#2 Receivers: Build a rapport early
Another offseason, another new look receiving corps. Rookie first rounder Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will be tasked with making an immediate impact, despite still recovering from foot surgery in January. As the only familiar faces, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore must be sure hands for Jackson. Receivers must adjust to playing for a run heavy attack in a pass happy league. If the Ravens struggle offensively in the first few games of the season, it will be critical for wideouts to not point fingers at Jackson for their lack of production.
#3 Tight ends: Extend drives with physicality
Tight ends were always a favorite target of Flacco’s and should become a source of comfort for Jackson as well. In the 2018 draft, Baltimore doubled down on the tight end position, and now is the time for a pay off. Looking to play in his first full NFL season, Hayden Hurst has the opportunity to prove he was worthy of being selected at 25th overall. Mark Andrews flashed great potential in his rookie season, averaging 16.2 yards on 34/50 catches.
#4 Defense: Create turnovers
In 2017, the Ravens led the league with 22 interceptions in the regular season. Last year, Baltimore dropped all the way to 18th in the league, with just 12. Despite the large amount of talent departing this offseason, the defense will have to win the turnover battle to generate easy wins for a maturing offense.
#5 Special teams: Shorten the field
Finding a reliable return man has been elusive in recent years. In 2018, Chris Moore handled the majority of returns, ranking 15th in the NFL at 22.3 yards per kickoff return. With Moore likely to take on a larger role as a receiver, Baltimore may be looking for other people to fill his shoes. If Jackson can start drives with favorable field position, he will have a better chance to see success.