January 6th 2019, the Ravens are playing their first playoff game since 2014 and hosting their first since 2012. This time, it wasn’t Joe Flacco, it was Lamar Jackson. Jackson took over a 4-5 Ravens team, whos starter just went down with injury, and was forced onto the scene. With a new quarterback and total transformation of an offensive system, Lamar stepped right in, winning 6 of 7 and leading Baltimore to the AFC north title. The Chargers game however, is when the hype seemingly seemed to end.
Lamar Jackson struggled heavily against the Chargers, who he previously beat 2 weeks earlier. He missed throws, couldn’t get much going on the ground with the Chargers deploying 7 defensive backs, as the Ravens were completely shut down offensively. Fans started booing Jackson and asked for Flacco, who had shown tons of playoff success during his time in Baltimore, but the Ravens stuck with Lamar.
When the off season hit, the Ravens unsurprisingly traded Flacco, committing to Lamar as the franchise quarterback. Analysts and fans around the world disagreed with the move and criticized Lamar and the Ravens front office all off season for the decision. Many brought up the fact that Lamar was a historically inaccurate passer his rookie season, which very rarely improves over time, while also acknowledging the fact that there was a counter for the offense and that the Chargers exploited it. Everyone had agreed that Lamar was the worst starting quarterback heading into the 2019 season or close to it, focusing on what he didn’t do well instead of what he could do in the future, and that’s where everyone went wrong.
Jackson went to work during the off season. He put on weight, improved his trowing mechanics and weaknesses in his base causing accuracy issues, and studying football to become more advanced mentally. He didn’t pay much attention to the doubters, but when he did he used it as fuel to prove them wrong. When the team got together during offseason camp, he stood out as coaches kept talking about. His mechanics improved and he looked like a much better quarterback heading into the next season. He played pretty well during the preseason but didn’t blow anyone out the water, as the Ravens ran a simplified offense to get his feet wet. It wasn’t until the first week that we were going to see the new Lamar Jackson.
September 8th 2019, the Ravens open up their season in Miami against the Dolphins. No one really knew what to expect from the new look Ravens offense under newly hired offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Lamar exploded, completing 17 out of 20 passes for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns, while blowing out the Dolphins 59-10. This got many people talking as it shocked NFL fans around the league. People began to question weather or not he had improved, but we needed to see it more against better opponents. Baltimore dropped 2 straight against Kansas City and Cleveland and sat at 2-2 going into week 5 against Pittsburgh, where the Ravens won in overtime, but with Lamar throwing 3 picks and having maybe his worst game of the season up to that point. It seemed like Lamar was better than everyone expected but not quite an elite quarterback.
The Ravens would face off against the Seahawks, against the MVP front runner at the time, Russell Wilson. Thats when Lamar really caught peoples attention, winning 30-16, and improving to 6-2 on the season. He would build off that with a 37-20 victory against the undefeated Patriots in prime time. He started to run away with the MVP against the Rams in week 12, in a 15/20 5 td game on Monday Night Football. Lamar would continue his dominance over the rest of the season, walking away winning the MVP award unanimously at 22 years old.
The Ravens sat at 14-2 heading into the divisional round of the playoffs against the 9-7 underdog Tennessee Titans. The Ravens went on to lose the game, and Lamar didn’t have his typical MVP performance as the Ravens fell in their first playoff game for the second consecutive season 28-12. Later, Lamar would admit that they underestimated the Titans. Lamar began to receive criticism again for not being able to deliver in the playoffs, as people continued to question his ability as a drop back passer despite leading the league in passing touchdowns from the pocket.
Lamar Jackson in year 2 took the league by storm, not only because of his incredible rushing ability but because of his understanding of the game and ability to process defenses. At 23 years old, Lamar is way ahead of the curve in football IQ, as many young qbs take many years to develop the understanding that Lamar currently has. He’s proven to have incredible work ethic, and has already been working out with teammates, doing extensive work wit Hollywood Brown, who figures to be Lamar’s main target at wide receiver. Lamar may never be the most accurate passer, but if he continues to get better with pre snap processing, continues to take care of the football, and uses his athleticism the way he does, there’s no reason not to expect him to be an elite quarterback, and a huge problem for the rest of the NFL.