‘Magician’ of elusiveness: Lamar Jackson feels he is proved sturdiness – Baltimore Ravens Weblog

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The final time Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was on the apply area, in 2021, the NFL’s most elusive participant may barely transfer. Jackson limped from drill to drill as he favored his injured proper ankle.

Seven months later, Jackson reported to coaching camp wanting stronger than ever. He bulked as much as 230 kilos, which is eighteen kilos heavier than his listed weight final season.

“I advised him he seems to be like a special man,” Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman mentioned. “Once I shake his hand, it feels just a little completely different; you realize that I imply?”

It’s been a special offseason for Jackson, who has been requested repeatedly about contract negotiations however not a lot about his sturdiness. He was sidelined for the final 4 video games of the 2021 marketing campaign after Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah dove at Jackson’s heels. Jackson was taken to the bottom after escaping the pocket and making a go, and he missed video games due to harm for the primary time in his NFL profession.

Since taking on because the Ravens beginning quarterback halfway via the 2018 season, Jackson has turn into one of many league’s high playmakers along with his skill to interrupt lengthy runs and lengthen go performs by eluding defenders. However there’s a danger: Jackson has been hit 710 instances, 100 greater than another quarterback over that span.

Getting into his fifth season, Jackson believes he has proved his dual-threat model of play is sustainable. The juked-out defenders outnumber the head-on collisions. His 33 runs of 20-plus yards triple the practices he has missed due to harm. And whereas he’s coming off his most vital harm within the NFL, Jackson believes the circumstances of the play again up his level. Actually, Jackson is so assured he received’t undergo one other vital harm, he’s willing to play out his fifth-year option and never signal an extension.

“Are you aware how the harm occurred? Making an attempt to go within the pocket,” Jackson mentioned. “I have been good [with] how I have been taking part in. However once I tried to shed and keep within the pocket, I obtained damage for the primary time. So, sure, I believe it speaks for itself.”

Jackson reached 5,000 yards passing and a couple of,000 yards speeding in 35 video games, which was the shortest time span wanted to perform the feat in NFL historical past. Final season, he tied his personal league mark with seven video games of a minimum of 200 yards passing and 50 yards speeding.

Jackson has racked up 615 speeding makes an attempt. No different NFL quarterback has run the ball greater than 500 instances in his first 4 years.

And whereas the Ravens have diminished the variety of Jackson’s designed runs in every of the previous three seasons, workforce officers chalk up Jackson’s harm as “an aberration.”

“The factor about Lamar is that he’s most likely among the finest athletes on the place within the historical past of recognized mankind,” Roman mentioned. “So, to not faucet into that may be considerably foolish, wouldn’t it not?”

For years, Ravens officers mentioned the worst hits can come when Jackson is within the pocket. His eyes are targeted downfield, which will increase the probabilities of pictures from his blind aspect.

When Jackson bolts out of the pocket, he’s defenders and barely will get pushed into the bottom. He’s extra in command of his environment.

“He is a magician in terms of contorting his physique to keep away from hits,” Roman mentioned.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh supplied his take.

“You are going to be involved about that with any quarterback — quarterbacks can get hit within the pocket — however he is obtained a knack,” Harbaugh mentioned. “He is carried out it his complete life; I believe he is simply good at it, and he does not actually get hit that a lot and that arduous.

“Now, in fact, it is soccer, and I believe he will should handle and play the lengthy sport that method, definitely. However I sort of belief him with that.”

Jackson is already No. 7 all time amongst speeding quarterbacks with 3,673 yards. Of the six quarterbacks who rank forward of him, solely Cam Newton had greater than 4 straight seasons of 100-plus carries.

“Every time individuals ask me about working quarterbacks, I all the time assume Lamar is in a special class,” Ravens Professional Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard mentioned. “I really feel like typical quarterbacks, who’re working quarterbacks, have actually good linear pace. Lamar can transfer in so many instructions and never lower his pace.

“So, I believe that is why his sturdiness is so good, as a result of he is not taking direct hits. And he is only a robust man. I imply, you see how he seems to be proper now?”

Including muscle would possibly lower the priority about Jackson withstanding hits, however the further weight has prompted questions on the way it may influence his pace.

Since Jackson entered the league, he has produced 9 runs through which he has exceeded 20 mph. Solely 5 gamers have recorded extra, and so they’re all working backs: Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook and Saquon Barkley.

Roman mentioned he’s “ to see” how Jackson’s measurement impacts him as a runner.

“Once I see him kick it into fifth gear right here, his engine is greater this 12 months,” Roman mentioned. “So, he may be just a little bit sooner. We’ll simply see the way it goes, however it’s wanting fairly good.”

Not solely has the variety of Jackson’s designed runs dipped lately, his effectiveness as a runner has decreased, as nicely. In Jackson’s 2019 MVP season, he averaged 7.05 yards per keep it up designed runs. Final season, that common dipped to 4.95 yards.

The place Jackson has improved is in shopping for time within the pocket and never working. Final season, he had the second-best QBR (85.7) when he had three or extra seconds to go.

“I all the time inform him, ‘Do not let me coach you out of being an excellent participant. Belief your instincts,’” Ravens quarterbacks coach James City mentioned. “We wish to run the primary play the best way that it has been designed. So, if the design of the play is to throw an in-cut, and the in-cut is there and we’re protected, let’s throw it. If not, now we go discuss in regards to the second play, and that is when he lets his nice pure skill take over and run.

“So, there is a positive line, however we wish to run the primary play first — after which let your nice pure skill come via.”

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