Lamar Jackson 2021 outlook: Flashes from Ravens QB’s third year and what he must do to regain MVP form - Chris Trapasso
The downturn in offensive production wasn’t really on him. There wasn’t a clear dip in his play as a passer, regardless of which angle you observed it. The regression was more about the situation around him, defenses having a better grasp on how to limit Roman’s offense, and because the insanely high 9.0% touchdown rate from 2019 was simply unsustainable and more about exquisite scheming than remarkable individual play from Jackson.
His pressure rate sky-rocketed from 30.1% of the time in 2019 to 37.0% in 2020, and while Jackson fared similarly against that pressure in his third season — a good sign — it did have a minor negative impact on him, and the damage it caused is worth monitoring in 2021.
When he won MVP, Jackson was credited with the creation of his own pressure on just nine of 466 drop backs, an amazingly low figure for a quarterback with his athleticism and scrambling gifts. That’s a rate of 1.9%. Last year, that number doubled to 18 Jackson-generated pressures on 457 drop backs (3.9%).
Essentially, Jackson needs to get more comfortable surveying from inside the pocket for a second or two longer, so he’s not hurting his offensive line or missing big-play opportunities through the air because he prematurely looks to run.
For three years now, Andrews has been the most reliable piece of a work-in-progress passing game, the centerpiece of Jackson’s between-the-numbers attack. His showing Tuesday was a reminder, if anyone needed one, that wherever the Ravens’ remade passing attack goes this season — up, down, into the limelight, under center — Andrews will probably be option No. 1.
Even last year, a slog at times for the Ravens offense, was a step in the right direction for Andrews. During his breakout 2019 season, the former third-round pick had 64 catches for 852 yards (13.3 per reception) and 10 touchdowns in 15 games. As Andrews’ production dipped in 2020 (58 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games), he still made strides in his game.
His drop rate fell, from 7.1% to 5.7%, and his completion rate improved slightly. He also finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ No. 10 pass-blocking tight end and No. 17 run-blocking tight end, one of the few at the position to be rated so highly at both. With the Ravens’ investment in their outside passing game this offseason, Andrews could enter 2021 as the rare player who could be more dangerous the less he’s needed to produce.
With Rashod Bateman missing time with what John Harbaugh described as “tenderness” and “tightness” in his muscles for the second time in three weeks, you wonder what his status will be for minicamp. You’d like to see him get a taste of competing against the full defense before training camp.
One of the early reps in a 7-on-7 period that stood out was Odafe Oweh covering Ty’Son Williams on a wheel route and knocking away McSorley’s pass. Oweh still has much to learn, but it was an impressive rep for someone who rarely ever dropped into coverage at Penn State.
If you’re not noticing the center snapping the ball, that’s generally a positive development. Bradley Bozeman fits that description over the first three weeks of OTAs, which shouldn’t be taken for granted after last year’s well-documented problems at the position.
2. DON MARTINDALE, BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens are one of the league’s shining lights in terms of using data and building their defense from back-to-front, opting to pay the likes of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters while jettisoning Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in favor of cheaper, but just as effective, options — such as Tyus Bowser — this offseason.
Baltimore withstood the release of star safety Earl Thomas III in the preseason and still finished seventh in yards per play allowed. The Ravens have been able to use over 60% of their salary cap on the defensive side of the ball the past few seasons, but with Lamar Jackson’s contract extension on the horizon, and Ronnie Stanley’s already signed, the job for Martindale will be harder in future years.
Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were the only teammates to find themselves inside the top 10 of PFF’s outside cornerback rankings entering the 2021 season. Granted, Humphrey has spent much of the past two years in the slot, but a healthy Tavon Young could allow him to play more on the outside next year. Humphrey is the only cornerback in the NFL with coverage grades of at least 80.0 from both the slot and outside since 2017. He brings a rare and valuable skill set to Baltimore’s secondary, which also received solid play from Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott in 2020.