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Ravens offense under Lamar Jackson is making strides, but don’t expect it to be revolutionary

Ravens offense under Lamar Jackson is making strides, but don’t expect it to be revolutionary
Ravens WR #83 Willie Snead IV celebrates with teammate #79 Ronnie Stanley. The Jacksonville Jaguars played against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday, August 8 in both team's first preseason game of 2019. (Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Sun)

After only one preseason game, it’s safe to say that the Ravens won’t have a “revolutionary” offense.

Their offense has been used for decades, especially when a team is trying to develop a young quarterback who wants to run but the coaching staff is trying to teach him how to win by throwing from the pocket.

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Most teams are vanilla on offense this time of year, and the Ravens are probably playing it conservative as well, but we’ve seen this stuff before. They are going to run a lot of waggles, play action and bootlegs this season in the passing game, compared with the basic straight drop-back stuff they used with former quarterback Joe Flacco.

Once the regular season starts, they’ll use more run-pass option and read-option plays for second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson because of his running ability.

Revolutionary?

If the Ravens came out using the Delaware Wing-T in this pass-happy age of the NFL, that would be revolutionary. What we saw in Thursday night’s 29-0 victory and probably will see for the rest of the season is nothing new.

The question is still: Can Jackson win in the postseason when opposing teams take away the running game and force him to throw from the pocket?

You can’t determine that from Thursday night’s game. Jackson played the first three series before taking the rest of the night off. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 59 yards and one touchdown.

The one conclusion that can be reached on Jackson is that the Ravens have spent the entire offseason trying to develop him, and at least there has been improvement.

No, Jackson isn’t the next Michael Vick, but even modest improvement would be a help. Compared with a year ago, Jackson’s mechanics have gotten better. He is still sloppy on occasion, dropping from an over-hand to a three-quarter delivery or failing to step into a pass.

But he is more comfortable in the offense, and that has helped his decision-making. The ball comes out of his hand faster and arrives quicker. He is more accurate throwing short to mid-range passes, even though the Ravens have basically limited him to throwing inside the numbers during training camp.

Jackson, though, has gotten better with his timing to receivers on short out patterns and he has been consistent as far as throwing strikes inside the red zone, which he couldn’t do last season.

It’s a different Jackson.

Another major factor is that Jackson mingles with all the players on the team, not just certain ones like Flacco did. Flacco’s teammates respected him and they admired his toughness ,but Jackson is more of one of the boys.

His teammates will play hard for him because they like his big-play and leadership abilities.

The Ravens have set Jackson up to succeed. After last season, when he started the last eight games and won six, the Ravens retooled their offense.

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Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg resigned and was replaced by Greg Roman. The Ravens signed veteran coach David Culley as the passing game coordinator to retool their offense around Jackson.

Most of the pass patterns practiced in training camp were run Thursday night, with Jackson only occasionally going long downfield. As far as the Ravens are concerned, they don’t want Jackson to carry the offense, but throw a bit more and slightly improve on last year’s 58.2% completion rate when he connected on 99 of 170 passes for 1,201 yards.

The Ravens don’t care if Jackson runs 28 times a game or not. It’s just win baby, just win.

If Jackson gets hurt, the Ravens are in trouble, but the season won’t be over as long as Robert Griffin III is the backup and the fractured thumb on his throwing hand has healed. His playing ability is similar to Jackson’s and the offense is suited for him as well.

At this point in their careers, Griffin might be better than Jackson. But the bottom line is that Jackson is younger and was drafted in the first round. It’s his job to lose.

Now, if Griffin continues to have problems with his thumb and he isn’t ready for the opener, the Ravens will start sweating. Third-string and rookie quarterback Trace McSorley is a competitor. He is tough kid with good mechanics but just doesn’t have the arm strength.

Also, he is only 6 feet, which isn’t ideal for a quarterback, especially one that isn’t as mobile as Jackson. But let’s not look too far ahead.

Jackson and the offense are still works in progress, but don’t expect them to be revolutionary.

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