Finding the right offensive coordinator will go a long way to helping the Baltimore Ravens agree a new contract with Lamar Jackson. The franchise quarterback needs a play-caller and a system tailored to helping him make strides as a passer.
That’s why the Ravens wanting to speak to Dave Canales, quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks, in such an exciting development. The news was reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who identified the key role Canales played in turning Geno Smith into a Pro-Bowl QB:
Smith’s transformation from journeyman backup to record-setting starter gives Canales the highest recommendation to succeed Greg Roman. It also raises tantalizing possibilities about what level of wonders the quarterback whisperer could work with an athlete as naturally gifted as Jackson.
Geno Smith’s Transformation a Blueprint for Ravens, Lamar Jackson
Smith was supposed to enter the 2022 NFL season as backup to Drew Lock. It’s a role the 32-year-old was more than familiar with from similar spells riding the bench for the New York Jets, New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers.
Instead, Smith produced a comeback season for the ages, setting a new Seahawks’ franchise record in the process, per CBS Sports:
A Seahawks team supposedly in rebuild mode rode Smith’s 30 touchdowns through the air to the playoffs. Although the Seahawks were beaten on the road by the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round, Smith acquitted himself well against the league’s toughest defense, per Dov Kleiman:
The overall jump in Smith’s numbers is what the Ravens should keep in mind during any interview with Canales. He coaxed significant improvement from Smith’s previous best season as a starter, 2013’s campaign with the Jets.
Smith tallied 6.9 yards per attempt and produced a 66.5 QB rating that year. Those figures jumped to 7.5 yards an attempt, along with a rating of 100.9 this season.
That’s the blueprint for what the Ravens need from Jackson outside of Roman’s run-heavy offense. Achieving it will require a few things, including some Jackson doesn’t have.
Ravens Must Commit to Lamar Jackson’s Development
Jackson needs to stay healthy to make the necessary refinements to his game. Unfortunately, remaining on the field has been a problem the last two seasons.
The 26-year-old missed the last six games of this campaign with a PCL injury. An ankle problem kept Jackson out of the final five games of the 2021 season.
Going 2-9 during that run showed the Ravens how much they need No. 8 to stay upright, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. The other is equipping Jackson with better playmakers among his pass-catchers, specifically at wide receiver.
Talent at the latter position isn’t in short supply for the Seahawks. Not when DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are free to burn defenses on the outside. They both topped 1,000 yards this season and combined to catch half of Smith’s touchdown passes, with Metcalf also chipping in against the Niners:
Metcalf and Lockett are premier wideouts, but Jackson had to make do with veteran retreads like DeSean Jackson and unproven youngsters like Tylan Wallace. The options at Jackson’s disposal must be improved this offseason if the next coordinator is going to make a meaningful difference.
Investing in a headline free agent won’t be easy. Not when Jackson is likely to be franchise tagged, something that could cost as much as $32,445,000 of the Ravens’ projected $32,861,209 worth of room under the salary cap.
It’s a problem general manager Eric DeCosta must solve, but if the Ravens traded Jackson, the next OC would likely need to get more from a less talented signal-caller. In other words, exactly what Canales did with Smith.
Experience isn’t a problem for the 41-year-old, who has been with the Seahawks since 2010, but was promoted to passing game coordinator in 2020. Canales is well-versed in the one area the Ravens must fix next season after Roman’s final year on the headset yielded just 3,202 yards, the third-fewest in the league.
Having a proven quarterbacks coach run the offense would mean a QB-friendly scheme better suited to getting the best from the Ravens’ most important player.