Lamar Jackson has ‘keys to the Ferrari’ in Ravens offense

NFL

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Shortly after the Baltimore Ravens‘ 17-10 loss in the AFC Championship Game, coach John Harbaugh sat down with quarterback Lamar Jackson and got his thoughts on how to take the offense to the next level.

Jackson’s suggestion: Expanding the audibles at the line of scrimmage.

“From us watching film and getting into games, teams changing things up on us, we just want to add extra layers to all of our calls,” Jackson said during Baltimore’s minicamp.

Last year, Jackson spoke about how offensive coordinator Todd Monken gave him “the keys to the offense.” This offseason, the Ravens are increasing his freedom at the line of scrimmage by challenging him to change plays, protections and even his cadence before the ball is snapped.

“It’s like that smart kid in the classroom, you can’t allow them to get bored, right?” Ravens quarterbacks coach Tee Martin said. “He’s like that. You have to constantly add things, tweaks and things of that nature and responsibilities.”

Last season, the Ravens were among the most explosive offenses with Jackson, finishing fourth in the NFL in scoring (28.4 points). But, in the AFC title game, Baltimore stumbled mightily in tying a season-low with 10 points against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens were criticized for handing the ball off to their running backs — Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — six times against the NFL’s 18th-ranked run defense. Harbaugh explained that Jackson didn’t have the right run plays to switch to at the line considering how Kansas City lined up.

The goal throughout this offseason is, no matter what look the defense presents, Jackson can get the Ravens into the right play.

“It’s looked good [this spring], but we still have a long way to go,” Harbaugh said. “I think everybody would tell you that. We have a lot of work to do with that, and it will be an ongoing process throughout the season, for sure, but that’s the direction we’re going.”

In watching film of the AFC Championship Game, the Ravens acknowledge the Chiefs’ heavy blitz package caused the issues. Jackson was sacked four times and hit a total of seven times.

One way Jackson can keep the pass rush off-balance is with his voice. A major emphasis for the spring has been Jackson’s cadence. Last year, the Ravens were only able to draw the defense offside once.

“It has been a tool in the past, and we’re just going to continue to take it to the next level,” Martin said. “Lamar is outstanding at it, whether we’re going non-verbal on the road or whether we’re going verbal at home. We have a lot of different ones that gives us an advantage so that people don’t know when we’re snapping the ball and slowing them down a little bit.”

With the Ravens defense regularly blitzing during minicamp, the coaching staff encouraged Jackson to keep an aggressive mindset, even if it results in a mistake.

“You’re not going to give a guy keys to the Ferrari and tell him to do 30 [miles per hour],” Martin said. “Sometimes as coaches, you can’t be scared when they make mistakes, and you can’t allow the mistakes that they make to put fear in your heart for not calling that play the next time, because without that, there is no growth.”

Martin added, “With Lamar, I tell him, ‘Hey man, No. 1, whatever hits your brain first, we’re going to live with it, and as long as we’re all on the same page, it’s not a wrong call. It’s not a bad call.’ So, that’s where it starts, and that gives him the confidence and freedom to go out there and confidently do what he wants to do. We’re not playing scared, we’re not coaching scared, and that’s the only way you can grow into this type of offense.”

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