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Lamar Jackson having creative influence will elevate the Ravens offense

Giving the former unanimous league MVP a sense of ownership will lead to greater production for the entire offense.

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Professional athletes are widely exalted by fans and media while being thought of as assets by most owners and organizations.

However, what is often overlooked is that they’re humans with emotions. Just like most ordinary people, they take more pride in their work and are more invested when they feel like their voice and input is valued.

The Baltimore Ravens have a strong reputation for not treating their players like disposable depreciating assets. The team’s first-year Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken especially loves to “empower” his players. He maintains a open line communication between himself and them and is receptive to any thoughts, opinions, feedback, or new ideas that they might have when it comes to the offense.

“[If] you’re more receptive to their ideas, and they put more time and effort into it,” Monken said Thursday. “[It’s] not just things that they see, but things that they may see on film, or what’s on their mind in terms of a better way of doing it, because if they don’t have confidence in what we do, you’re really in trouble.

“I think that’s a step in the right direction. When players have ideas or thoughts or suggestions, it’s been my background to [say], ‘Hey, let’s take a look at it. Let’s take a look at what you see.’ As long as it’s well thought out, and I think it fits.”

One of the players who rightfully should have the most input is two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Lamar Jackson. The former unanimous league MVP is excited to finally have some creative ownership of the Ravens’ offensive system after not having nearly as much under Greg Roman for the four-and-a-half years of his career.

Monken sometime lets Jackson call plays and allows him to make pre-snap changes on the field. Jackson may see something from the opposing defense and check out of the called play to a different one, or slide the protection to a different direction where potential pressure could be coming from.

“It made me feel good,” Jackson said Tuesday when asked how calling plays makes him feel. “Coach listens to me.”

Jackson recalled a recent instance where he across some route concepts that he liked on social media and believed would be a good fit for Ravens.

“I sent it to (Quarterback) Coach Tee [Martin] and he was like, ‘I’m going to relay the message to Coach Monken,’ and Coach Monken liked the play, so he put it in practice,” Jackson said in the same press conference. “We didn’t show it today, but I feel like it will be good for us.”

Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews has been Jackson’s top and most trusted target in the passing game since the two entered the league as rookies in 2018. He said that Jackson has looked “really, really good” in the new offense thus far and foresees him having another “special” year.

“I just think the understanding of the offense, making it his own, seeing the game the right way and making the big-time throws,” Andrews said Tuesday. “He’s extremely focused and determined, and it’s going to be a special Lamar [Jackson] season.”

Since his record-breaking MVP season in 2019, the national media has treated Jackson and the Ravens as if they’ve lost some the electric luster from that year. With a more innovative and modernized offense, where play caller and signal caller are able to bounce ideas off each other, the unit as a whole is poised for an exciting 2023 season.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are lauded for having one of the most creative and modernized offenses in the league. While long-time head coach Andy Reid is credited as it’s architect and mastermind, his star quarterback also has a lot of influence when it comes to play call and design.

Patrick Mahomes was one of three players at the position that was featured over the course of the 2022 season in the Netflix documentary Quarterback. One of the highlights from the series was when Mahomes went into intricate detail about how much creative input Chiefs’ players are allowed to give in the offense.

“We make up so many plays,” Mahomes said. “It starts off with the coaches then we kind of make it out own and I think that’s what makes our offense so special.”

Reid echoed similar “wide open” door sentiments to the ones that Monken shared on Thursday. The team’s proof of concept was the fact that the Chiefs led the league in numerous offensive efficiency metrics and won their second championship in the last four seasons.

“We let the players have a little creativity,” Reid said. “What happens when the guys do this is they’re vested in it.”

Many pundits expected the Chiefs to regress or take a step back after trading away seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill last offseason. Instead, Mahomes and Reid embraced the challenge of finding a way to be an explosive on offense without one of their best players and overcame it.

I am in no way insinuating that just because Jackson gets to call audibles and draw up or suggest plays that the Ravens are Super Bowl bound. However, a collaborative effort when it comes to offensive game-planning can lead to the elevation of not just the offense but the team as a whole to greater heights.

“The reality is you do want them involved,” Monken said. “You do want them feeling good about the process – how we go about game planning, and once they do that, then there’s a certain amount of empowerment [and] ownership into what we do.”