In some respects, Lamar Jackson’s 2020 season was his most impressive season to date. While it statistically paled in comparison to his MVP season of 2019, Jackson and his teammates were faced with far more adversity last season that included injuries to key players, Earl Thomas’ abrupt release and a COVID-19 outbreak three quarters into the season.
After a 6-5 start, Jackson helped lead the Ravens to six consecutive victories that included his first-ever playoff win. But despite last season’s strong finish, the Ravens quarterback is still fixated on what he has yet to accomplish in Baltimore: leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
“It’s always difficult to get to the playoffs,” Jackson said via the team’s official website. “Get to one game before the big dance – well, one of the big dances – and go out how we went out. We wouldn’t like that, but that’s why it’s next season. [We have] the offseason to prepare to get back in that same spot and excel, and that’s pretty much what we’ve been focusing on now. [You] can’t dwell on the past – like I always say. We’ve just got to move forward.”
Jackson has moved forward. Along with working out with teammates in non-official workouts, Jackson was among the Ravens who have been taking part in the team’s OTAs. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said that among Jackson’s offseason goals has been improving the fundamentals of his game.
“Quarterback, there’s a lot to that,” Harbaugh said. “There’s the actual just taking the snap, the footwork on the ball handling, the footwork on the various drop-backs, play-action drop-back passes, movement passes, the mechanics of throwing the ball, the reads, the checks, it’s just endless at that position. So, you work all the way across the board on that stuff and try to have the best day you can and try to improve 1%, we say, every single day. That’s a metaphor, obviously, but that’s the goal – to keep getting better, but that goes for every single position. So, we really can’t pinpoint one thing; there are numerous things that you have to be working on all at the same time.”
As far as intangible goals are concerned, Jackson — who already has 41 starts under his belt — wants to grow as a vocal leader within the Ravens’ organization.
“I always say that, but I’ve got to start presenting it how it should, [how] the guys are wanting me to sometimes. But lead by example, work hard. We’re trying not to make mistakes. If we do make a mistake, we’re going to repeat it until it’s right. We’re trying to perfect our craft. We’re trying to be perfect out there, even though some things are not going to be perfect – but we’re trying to make it happen. So, that’s about it – just lead by example.”
Every roster undergoes change during the offseason, and Baltimore is no exception. The Ravens still have question marks as it relates to their pass rush after losing Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward in free agency. Baltimore has countered these losses by re-signing Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee. They also drafted former Penn State linebacker Odafe Oweh in the first round and former Notre Dame defensive Daelin Hayes in the fifth round.
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Offensively, the Ravens gave Jackson two new weapons in receivers Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman. In response to the loss of Orlando Brown Jr., the Ravens signed veteran offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowler who started in more than 90 consecutive games with the Steelers.
“I felt great about the moves,” Jackson said. “We got a lot of young guys; we got some vets on the O-line. I just can’t wait to put the pads on and we’re going against other opponents to show off our skills and stuff like that, because right now, everyone is rolling, everyone is happy to get back, and the new guys, they’re happy to be here. So, we’re just going to see.”
As it relates to his contract situation (the Ravens picked up his fifth-year option this offseason), Jackson apparently doesn’t appear to be too terribly concerned. As alluded to earlier, Jackson is primarily concerned about one thing as he continues to prepare for 2021.
“Not often,” receiver Marquise Brown said when asked about how often Jackson talks about his contract with him. “I think the most we talk about is Super Bowl (laughs). I’m pretty sure Lamar [Jackson] wants to stay here, the Ravens want him here, but we want a Super Bowl. So, if we win the Super Bowl, everybody gets to stay here.”