Entering the 2019 season, it was abundantly clear that all eyes would be on second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson for the Baltimore Ravens. Would Jackson improve his accuracy as a passer, or would he continue to rely on his rare athletic ability as a runner to make plays?
It’s fair to say that Jackson made quite the statement on opening day, throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns while completing 85% of his passes, leading to a franchise record 59 points. This performance made Jackson the youngest quarterback ever to achieve a perfect passer rating in a game.
All offseason, the media debated about how much Jackson should run this season. Well, he only ran three times against Miami for a whopping total of six yards. Jackson stood in the pocket and picked the Dolphins apart throw after throw.
Jackson’s first touchdown was a quick pass to rookie first-round wide receiver Marquise ‘‘Hollywood’’ Brown, who broke a tackle and cruised into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown. This happened to be Brown’s first career catch as well. What was Brown’s second career catch? Oh, just an 83-yard touchdown that Jackson threw effortlessly. Brown instantly made it clear why he was the first receiver taken in the draft. His blazing speed presents serious problems for defensive backs, but he is also capable of running nuanced routes with the ability to kill defenses underneath.
Jackson’s third touchdown was to veteran receiver Willie Snead IV. Jackson hit snead perfectly over the top for a 33-yard touchdown. Jackson showed good ball placement and touch as Snead had a defender just behind him in coverage.
It was time for the other rookie receiver to get involved next. Myles Boykin, drafted in the third round out of Notre Dame, was the recipient of Jackson’s fourth touchdown. Near the end zone, Jackson evaded oncoming pressure in the pocket by drifting backwards then lofting the ball into the end zone, where Boykin made a savvy adjustment to relocate and catch it for the score.
Jackson's last touchdown wasn’t nearly as flashy as the others. On 2nd-and-goal at the one-yard line, Jackson connected with fullback Patrick Ricard for the one-yard touchdown and his fifth of the day. With this touchdown, Jackson tied the franchise record for touchdowns in a single game set by Joe Flacco in 2014 against Tampa Bay.
Jackson connected with second-year tight end Mark Andrews several times as well, though none of them were for touchdowns. Andrews finished with 108 yards and one touchdown on 8 catches, his touchdown coming from backup quarterback Robert Griffin III.
If this game is any indication of Jackson’s improvement in the passing game, then the sky is the limit for the Ravens in 2019.