After more than a month of training camp practices and three preseason games, the Ravens aren’t the least bit surprised by anything they’re seeing from Lamar Jackson.
I feel that needs to be stated.
Some national media members may be surprised that he hasn’t waltzed into Baltimore and instantly become the No. 1 quarterback. Some fans may harbor similar feelings, having watched Jackson dazzle in college. (My highly scientific research on the subject consists of scanning social media channels and Internet comments and listening to the radio while driving around.)
But any projections of instant stardom were based on thinking that didn’t necessarily jive with the reality of the situation.
Jackson is a rookie, a young one at that. He plays pro football’s most complex position, one with a set of rights-and-wrongs that can take years to master – a very different set from what Jackson knew as a college quarterback, by the way.
Anyone who expected him just to show up and immediately soar into the stratosphere as “the next Michael Vick” was maybe a tad too excited.
The Ravens didn’t mind seeing the buzz Jackson’s arrival generated, but they also knew full well that he was entering what amounted to a lengthy apprenticeship.
They expected exactly what they’re getting – a blend of terrific and teachable moments, i.e., occasions when he stuns you with his unique and exciting talent, but also times when it’s clear he’s still relatively early in the process of developing into a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that his modest statistics through three preseason games – a 62.3 passer rating on 18 of 43 for 201 yards – have led to chatter about the Ravens having expected more from the second of their two 2018 first-round draft picks.
But they didn’t.
Jackson has been the team’s most-talked-about player since he arrived – OK, maybe No. 2 behind Joe Flacco – but in all the answers to all the questions that have been discussed for months, the one thing I’ve never heard from anyone in the organization is a single discouraging word.
Is Jackson making mistakes? Yes and that was expected.
Is he also showing promising signs? Yes and that was expected.
Does he still have a way to go before he is close to being ready to start? Yes and that was expected.
Starting to get the picture?
If you expected more from him, that’s strictly a function of where you set your bar of expectations (too high), as opposed to being a function of what the organization envisioned.
The Ravens have been delighted with Jackson’s professionalism, instincts and capacity for taking instruction. They’re working with him to take fewer hits, but they’re pleased with his poise and his determination to stay in the pocket on passing plays and go through his progressions – a key professional fundamental.
They’re also pleased, but not surprised, that he’s so mature and accountable. “I don’t feel like I’ve performed at a high level yet,” he said after Thursday night’s win in Indianapolis.
Frankly, the Ravens have liked pretty much everything about Jackson save for the on-field growing pains they knew were coming.
“There’s no question in my mind that he has a bright future,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday night.
Developing an NFL quarterback is a process. Many have been ruined when their team pushed them ahead too quickly, expecting too much too soon. The Ravens fully understand this, it seems. They’ve never entertained the idea of putting Jackson on the fast track simply because he was so dynamic in college. The NFL is different and they’re going to give him time to grow into it, partly because they can afford to with Flacco entrenched as the starter, and partly because it’s the right course for Jackson.
Finding a way to use his play-making skills this year is really their front-burner issue with him right now. The options are many and it’ll be exciting to see what develops.
As for his development as a quarterback, well, he’s working on it and they’re working on it, just as they expected to do.