Greg Roman didn’t win over many fans during his tenure as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, but the 50-year-old remains a staunch supporter of Lamar Jackson. Specifically, Roman has defended the quarterback’s lengthy injury record.
Speaking to Vic Carucci for The 33rd Team, Roman described coaching Jackson as “exciting and unique.” He also noted there was risk involved, connected to Jackson’s penchant for running, yet Roman did not blame the quarterback’s mobility for his injuries: “Jackson was such a master of avoiding hits, and honestly, he was safest when he was out in space on the move because he was in control as opposed to in the pocket with his eyes downfield, hoping somebody doesn’t run into the back of his legs. The few times he got injured were behind the line of scrimmage, looking to make a throw down the field.”
There’s something in what Roman says since Jackson was injured against the Denver Broncos in Week 13 last season after being sacked in the pocket, unable to avoid the hit because he had “his eyes downfield.”
Jackson is perhaps the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. His rushing threat exposes him to more contact, but Roman maintains “it never was an issue when he was running out in space. That’s pretty counterintuitive to what many people believe to be true.”
Lamar Jackson Has Ally for Feud With Injury Critics
Roman’s words are slightly surprising since Jackson has missed 11 games over the course of the last two seasons. An ankle injury kept him out of the final five contests in 2021, with the Ravens subsequently crashing to 0-5 and missing out on the playoffs.
Things barely went better when a PCL problem put Jackson on the shelf for six games to close the 2022 campaign. The Ravens made the postseason this time, but promptly lost to AFC North rivals the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild-Card Round.
Jackson’s playing style is often identified as the root cause for his lack of durability, despite the player himself railing against the narrative. Now he has a welcome ally in the form of his former play-caller, who was replaced by Todd Monken this offseason.
Jackson hasn’t been short of a few choice words for those who want to focus on his injuries. He took to Twitter to defend his absence late last season, while also reminding his detractors he’s never deserted the Ravens when healthy:
The notion Jackson might sit out “because of money” comes from the ongoing uncertainty surrounding his long-term future with the Ravens. He’s been adorned with the non-exclusive franchise tag, rather a new and lengthy contract, but the 26-year-old hasn’t been shy about expressing his desire for a trade.
If the Ravens do allow Jackson to join a new team — something the franchise could sanction in exchange for two first-round draft picks under terms of the tag — he’d have to be sure to link up with a coaching staff able to maximize his particular skill-set.
That’s something Roman succeeded in doing, at least up to a point, despite his critics.
Greg Roman Created Successful Blueprint for Lamar Jackson
The union between Roman and Jackson produced immediate dividends during a 2019 season that ended with Baltimore’s QB1 being named NFL MVP. It was just reward for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air, to go with 1,206 yards and seven scores on the ground.
Those numbers were borne from a blueprint drawn up by Roman. His strategy called for a run-heavy scheme defined by read-option concepts and play-action passing, helping Jackson dominate in both phases, per Pro Football Focus:
Roman referenced some of the pre-snap things the Ravens did to give Jackson an edge and keep defenses guessing: “In Baltimore, we weren’t a huge audible system. We did some of it, but we were mostly about pre-snap motions, shifting, changing the picture for the defense and utilizing various tempos.”
When it worked, and when Jackson stayed healthy, the Ravens were an effective scoring machine. The problem was the system had its drawbacks, particularly in the passing game where there often wasn’t enough spacing between routes.
A lack of elite wide receivers hardly helped Jackson and Roman’s cause, but the bottom line still made for grim reading. The Ravens averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt and completed a mere 33 passes of 20-plus yards, second-fewest in the league, ahead of only the New York Giants, last season.
Those numbers are why Todd Monken will be on the headset in 2023. It’s his task to expand the offense to showcase more of Jackson’s potential as a passer.
That’s necessary for Jackson’s development, assuming he stays to play on the tag, but it can’t come at the expense of the elusive signal-caller still using his legs to gash defenses.
As Roman alluded to, moving the pocket to put Jackson in space, both as a runner and a passer, will remain critical to keeping him healthy.