The Baltimore Ravens and general manager Eric DeCosta checked off the top two items on their offseason to-do list by locking up franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson to a long-term deal and surrounding him with the most talented group of pass catchers that he has ever had at any level and certainly since entering the league.
However, the hiring of Todd Monken to replace Greg Roman as their offensive coordinator has the potential to be just as much of a game-changer as any new weapon. Jackson spoke with the media for the first time signing his record-setting deal during the first week of Organized Team Activities and expressed his excitement for the new direction that the offense is headed and all the new freedom that comes with it.
“The new offense is smooth,” Jackson said. “I’m loving it so far. Coach is basically just giving us the keys to the offense.”
He elaborated that some of the new freedoms include under Monken that he didn’t have previously was the ability to change the play, formation, or protection pre-snap to set the offense up for optimal success instead of just running whatever was called and trusting or hoping that it will be executed properly.
“You can change whenever you want to,” Jackson said. “You see the defense and it’s not looking right to you, you see a guy blitzing, [or] you might want your receiver to do something different. Coach is giving you the freedom to do whatever you want to.”
Players often like simplicity when it comes to schemes but that preference is more prevalent on the defense than on offense because it allows defenders to play and react faster since they’re the ones making educated guesses on each play. However, offensive players sometimes crave complexity because it usually leads to finding creative ways to make plays and score points.
Jackson said that Monken’s offense has “more verbiage than usual” and that learning it has been fun because of how interactive and energetic his new play caller and designer is while teaching, drawing, and dialing it up.
“Coach is very active,” Jackson said. “He’s talkative and you’re enjoying it – the learning process of what he’s saying [when he’s] teaching us the new offense. It’s fun.”
Jackson is Excited About Becoming More Balanced Offensively
In addition to being allowed to call more audibles at the line of scrimmage, the All-Pro signal caller is also glad that Ravens’ new offense will be more modern in its design and more balanced in its run-to-pass ratio. He said he expects “less running and more throwing” moving forward as the offense evolves into one that best puts them in a position to be victorious.
“I hear a lot of noise about throwing and stuff like yards to achieve and stuff, but I’m not really worried about yards as much,” Jackson said. “It’s about us just winning. So, that will be all – the winning category, if anything.”
He was the focal point of the most prolific rushing attack in league history from 2019-2020 when he ran for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. In his year as a full-time starter in 2019, he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback during his unanimous MVP-winning season but the Ravens were upset in the Divisional Round and have yet to make it to a conference championship game since 2012.
“Running can only take you so far,” Jackson said. “I feel like, with this new era of teams and offenses in the league, I feel like we need that. And Coach Todd Monken, what I’m seeing in his offense so far is looking tremendous.”
Jackson Aspires to be More of a Vocal Leader
Through the first five years of his career, he mostly led and galvanized his teammates with his electrifying play on the field but now that he is one of the veterans and the most handsomely compensated player in league history, Jackson wants to lead with his words as well moving forward.
“I’m going to try to be more of a vocal leader,” Jackson said. “Coach [Harbaugh] was like, ‘You need to start speaking more.’ I just try to lead by example, but I’ll try to be more of a vocal leader if anything.”
He also said that “At the end of the day, guys just want to see you being you and [being] true to yourself and true to them, as well,” and that his increase in vocal leadership will be a concerted effort on and off the field.
Even though he wants to lead more with his words, Jackson still is leading with his actions by being one of the last ones to leave the team facility because he is spending additional time with coaches to go over and further familiarize himself with Monken’s offense.
“I’m studying, being in the meeting rooms, staying after,” Jackson said. “When everybody is leaving the building, I’m still here with Coach Tee and Coach ‘Monk’ and going over things.”
Jackson Praises Recently Drafted First-Round WRs
Since taking over as the team’s head front office, DeCosta has made seven first-round picks in five years. Four of them have been on offense with three being at wide receiver, a position that has vexed the franchise when it comes to drafting and developing stars or even upper echelon players.
However, that could be subject to change with the maturation and renewed health of 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman who Jackson proclaimed the team’s “Receiver (No.1), for sure” despite the offseason addition of three-time Pro Bowl superstar Odell Beckham Jr.
“It’s great to see my guy back out there,” Jackson said. “I’m glad to see him back healthy. I can’t wait until he’s on the field.”
Injuries have hindered Bateman from reaching his potential and establishing himself as one of the better young wideouts in the league through two seasons. He was on his way to breaking out last year but a Lisfranc foot injury caused him to land on injured reserve after just six games.
DeCosta used his only pick in the top two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft to select former Boston College star wide receiver Zay Flowers at No. 22 overall in the first round hours after Jackson signed his mega-deal.
Both players grew up in the same area in South Florida and Flowers doesn’t just appear to be a perfect fit for Monken’s offense but his quarterback likes what he has seen from the rookie wideout already.
“Zay is shifty. Zay is very fast, explosive. He can stop on the dime,” Jackson said to the media. “I saw it yesterday when you guys weren’t here, and I saw it today. So, he’s smooth.”
With both youngsters in the mix to go along with Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor who is another former first-rounder, the Ravens have the makings of one of the most explosively dynamic offenses in the league.