By Chris Schisler
When Lamar Jackson drops back to pass in the 2021 season, everything will be different. Let’s dive into what it could look like for the 2019 unanimous MVP. On one side of the field he’ll have his familiar friend, Marquise Brown. On the other side of the field he’ll either have Sammy Watkins or the exciting rookie, Rashod Bateman.
Things are already looking up, right? In the middle of the field will be his favorite target, Mark Andrews. In the slot will either be Devin Duvernay or Tylan Wallace. Dumping it off to J.K. Dobbins is never a bad idea. Things really do feel better.
Jackson has something he didn’t have when he was the MVP and he was slinging passes to Seth Roberts and Miles Boykin. Jackson has receiving options who can go up and get the football. Jackson knows that Watkins has a wealth of experience. He knows Watkins can win the fight with defensive backs.
Jackson will quickly learn that Bateman is a player he can always take a shot with. Bateman and Watkins don’t have to be wide open to make a catch. While we’re on the subject. Tylan Wallace was Mr. contested catch at Oklahoma State and Devin Duvernay had some of the most secure hands in college football history.
In the 2021 season you will see a more aggressive Jackson. In the past two seasons, Jackson has liked to force the ball to Andrews and Brown. We already know that Jackson is willing to take shots, he just needs to trust his target. Improving the receiving options for Jackson is reducing the forced passes to his favorite weapons, and gives him more chances to spread the ball around.
A Jackson who doesn’t have to lean on Brown or Andrews as a crutch is a Jackson who takes the next step in his development. Jackson has a reputation for not taking risks as a passer. This is partly due to the fact that he never has to. His legs create chances on the ground and also open up windows in the passing game.
This is partly due to the talent around him and the offensive line in front of him. Your perception of Jackson is going to change, if you are one of those who question his merits as a passer.
Yes, it’s not just about the new talent at wide receiver. If Ben Cleveland works out as a rookie left guard, the offensive line falls into place like the latest masterpiece of Eric DeCosta.
Ronnie Stanley and Allejandro Villanueva work as bookend tackles. Assuming the inside of the line works itself out with Bradley Bozeman at center and Kevin Zeitler at right guard, Jackson should have to bail on plays less, while he runs for his life. We’re dealing with cleaner pockets, heck we’re dealing with actual pockets for Jackson to work with.
It’s almost funny how the Ravens’ receivers have taken numbers almost exclusively between 11-16. When Jackson sees 12 he’ll want to get greedy and take a shot. When Jackson sees 13 (Duvernay) he knows he just has to get him in the open field. When Duvernay has his speed built up he’s gone.
When Jackson sees 14 (Watkins) he knows the full menu is on the table. Watkins can do a bit of everything for the passing game. Jackson knows that 15 (Brown) is always a threat with his speed and the chemistry he has with the receiver. 16 (Wallace) should prove to be one of the toughest receivers in Baltimore.
Another thing that is almost funny is how many people can’t seem to realize the offense is going to change in 2021. We’ve already gone into fairly heavy detail about the talent upgrades the offense has seen. The coaching staff got a boost as well.
Greg Roman is a great run game coach. He knows that better than anybody in the NFL. He’s always been limited in what he can bring to the table as an offensive coordinator because of the passing game. If you don’t think Keith Williams and Tee Martin will make a difference in the passing concepts of this offense you are crazy.
The Ravens wouldn’t have made those moves to the coaching staff, bringing in a pass game coordinator and a wide receivers coach, if they didn’t think the offense needed to grow. The Ravens aren’t committed to doing the same exact thing. If they do this right they’ll remain the best running team in the NFL and add a passing attack that will surprise defensive coordinators.
The idea most teams have against Jackson is to avoid getting beaten by his running skills. As long as Jackson is the quarterback and Roman is the coordinator, they will never lose their edge in the ground game. Teams are going to bet that Jackson won’t beat them with his arm. With a completely new passing game with a nearly all new group of receivers, Jackson will make teams lose that bet.