There hasn’t been a single quarterback or player at any position in the league that has accounted for or carried more of the load for their offense than Lamar Jackson has for the Baltimore Ravens during his first five years in the league.
Ever since the team turned to him as the full-time starter a little over midway through his rookie season, they’ve relied heavily on his generational and electrifying dual-threat playmaking ability.
It has helped them make the playoff four times, shatter franchise and league rushing records, and bring about the most exciting era of offensive production in the organization’s entire existence.
However, the Ravens haven’t done the best job of providing him with the requisite help in the form of high-caliber surrounding on his side of the ball and general manager Eric DeCosta even admitted to it in a recent interview with NBC’s Mike Florio.
That changed this offseason when the team made significant financial commitments to Jackson in the form of a record-setting long-term deal to make him the highest-paid player in league history.
Both prior to immediately after inking him to that extension, they assembled the best group of pass catchers that he has ever played with at any level. First-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken wants to use their new arsenal of weapons in the passing game to lighten Jackson’s workload so that much of the onus to produce and make plays doesn’t fall on his shoulders as frequently as it has for the vast majority of his tenure as the face of the franchise.
“I think the more talented you are around your quarterback, the less he has to burden – take on that burden – shoulder the load because you’re excited about getting others the football where they can utilize their skill set,” Monken said on Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
This offseason, the Ravens delivered on their vow to “build up” and revamp their wide receiver room by bringing in a pair of veteran former first-rounders in Nelson Agholor and three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. They followed it up by drafting Boston College standout Zay Flowers in the first round and still have 2021 first rounder Rashod Bateman and two-time Pro Bowler Devin Duvernay returning.
Even though Jackson is still very young having just turned 26 in early January, his legs won’t be as spry as he ages, and in order to preserve his body and dynamic playing style, he’ll need to lean on more of his fellow playmakers to step up and carry more of the load.
Monken knows that his ability to make plays with his feet as well as his arm will always be a big part of his game but he doesn’t want either aspect to get overworked if they have capable explosive talent at other positions on the roster.
“As you get further into your career, as Lamar gets older – as everybody does – you want to take some of that off of the player as best you can,” he said. “But he has a unique trait, a unique skillset. You can’t take that completely out of his toolbox because that’s a huge weapon for him and for us, is using his feet.”
Jackson has already established himself as the best running quarterback of all time given that he holds multiple rushing records for the position including most season of 1000-plus rushing yard with two, not even Michael Vick had more than one.
According to statmuse.com, he already ranks fifth all-time among quarterbacks in career rushing yards with 4,437 in just 70 games and other four ahead of him have played in more than twice as many games and he also ranks first all-time in rushing yards per game with 63.4.
Jackson made national headlines last week after he said that he wants to throw for 6,000 yards with all the new weapons in the passing game that he now has at his disposal. While shattering the single-season passing record set by Peyton Manning in 2013 might be a little too farfetched, putting less wear and tear on his legs and utilizing the team’s other offensive skill players will be beneficial for all parties involved.
Monken Excited to Get Baking With New and Returning Weapons
Jackson isn’t the only one that is excited and can’t wait to get cooking with the team’s revamped arsenal of pass catchers. After being the play-caller for the back-to-back national championship-winning Georgia Bulldogs at the collegiate level, Monken his grateful to have and determined to maximize another loaded offensive roster in his return to the professional level.
“You’re paid to move the football and score, and that’s a lot easier with talented players,” Monken said. “As I always say, ‘Cookies take better with sugar than they do with vinegar.’ So, you surround yourself with sugar.”
Even though they’re still in the early stages of the installation period, several players have already voiced their excitement for what they’ve seen and learned including Jackson who has only had his playbook iPad for a few weeks and said he is “liking it so far” as well as Flowers said it fits his style “perfectly”.
“It’s been great,” Duvernay said Wednsaday. “Learning from him [Monken], hearing him talk, [him] leading us, it’s been great. I think this year will be big for a lot of us, and yes, we’re all excited about the offense.”
One of the main focuses of Monken’s offense that he has shared and reiterated multiple times since being introduced as Greg Roman’s replacement is his desire to emphasize the utilization of getting their playmakers in space with an opportunity to make even bigger plays.
By spreading opposing defenses out more via using more of the field instead of operating out of condensed formations as often as his predesscor did, he’ll give Jackson more opportunities to carve them up with his arm and legs when plays breakdown. He’s especially excited for the addition of young dynamic pass catcher like Flowers who he got to see on the field for the first time at rookie minicamp last weekend.
“Whenever you acquire talent, I think that’s what you’re always trying to do,” Monken said. “Where can put those players in the best position to showcase their talent? A space player like Zay, you have to be creative in ways to get him the ball and showcase that.”
While this isn’t Monken’s first rodeo when it comes to being a primary play caller and designer, after three years that the college level, it will inevitably come with it’s own set of challenges.
“It’s always a little more challenging,” Monken said. “It was when I left the NFL and went to Georgia. Trying to assess the difference in levels. It’s the same coming back.”
Luckily for him, even though there has been a lot of change at the pro level since he was calling plays for the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many teams are adopting and instituting more college concepts that help streamline the transition for young offensive players as well as give then an edge against certain defenses.
“I love it,” Flowers said at rookie minicamp. “It’s kind of like some of the stuff I ran at [Boston College].”
Jackson Absent From Voluntary Football School
Despite having to learn an entire new offense, having several new pieces to build chemistry with, having just been given the richest contract on league history, Jackson hasn’t been presents for the team’s offseason program that they’re referring to as “Football School”. The only two returning quarterbacks present are 2022 undrafted free agent Anthony Brown and and 2022 Pro Bowler Tyler Huntley.
Monken downplayed the absence of the their two-time Pro Bowl starter, reminding everyone that this still the voluntary portion of the offseason program and expressing his confidence that Jackson is putting in the work to improve his craft ahead of the mandatory sessions.
“We’re excited about the guys who are here,” Monken said. “I know Lamar is working hard. I know the guys that aren’t here are working hard; they’re pros. When they’re here, they’re here. We look forward to getting them here and getting up to speed to what we’re doing offensively. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge, but it’s football. When they get here, they get here, and we’ll get them up to speed.”
He also shared that he and the rest of the staff are in “constant communication” with all the players this offseason, including those who aren’t currently attending football school at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Jackson isn’t the only offensive star not in attendance but is still training on his own. Beckham Jr. recently posted a viral video of one his training sessions where he pulled up onto a field in a an expensive car, hoped out and proceeded to run routes and footwork drills.