As Lamar Jackson’s growth continues, Ravens eager for him to flex his new muscles on offense

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In late June, the NFL’s Instagram account posted a posed photo of someone who looked a lot like Lamar Jackson. He was wearing Jackson’s purple Ravens jersey, and he had Jackson’s tattoos and new offseason hairdo.

But the face was thicker now and, leaning forward, obscured the neck almost completely. A closer study revealed that it was indeed Jackson — just the latest iteration. And in the dead zone of the offseason, that passed as news: “Ravens QB Lamar Jackson Looks Like He Beefed up in the Offseason.” “Lamar Jackson Got Thicc This Offseason And Looks Like He Could Be A Serviceable Fullback.”


“Trying to compete at a high level, put some more meat on my bones,” Jackson, still listed at 212 pounds, said Friday of his offseason transformation. “I was hurt [last season]. I was skinny. And when I got a little big, they said I was fat, so I don’t really know. I don’t know.”

Jackson, 22, wanted to clarify: It was muscle, not fat. But if weight jokes are the worst thing he has to suffer through before the regular season opens in September, the Ravens will be in good shape.


Their most polarizing and most important player opened training camp with a practice Thursday that had bad spots but was good enough. “I thought the offense looked like it was the first day,” coach John Harbaugh said afterward.

On Friday, Jackson was more accurate on his short- to medium-range passes, more willing to throw it deep, more in control of the offense. He could still fly, too. That hadn’t been sacrificed.

The Ravens offense is in the midst of what Harbaugh has told Jackson is a “revolution,” and the second-year quarterback is at the vanguard. Only those in the franchise’s inner circle know what the offense will look like after Jackson’s first preseason as their starting quarterback.

But it will be different from last year’s because Jackson is different, too. The highs and the lows of a run to the AFC North title shaped the Ravens’ future as much as they did the then-21-year-old.

“You guys seen me last year. You guys know. I was horrible. A lot of ducks,” he said, referring to his wobbly throws. Jackson finished the season with a 58.2% accuracy rate overall. “But it’s been decreasing, and it’s been getting better.”

Not just the throws, he and his coaches said, but everything before them. A year ago, Jackson’s struggles were so pronounced that it was unclear whether the first-round draft pick would even be Joe Flacco’s backup in Week 1. Now, Jackson said, he can relay play calls to the huddle without needing them repeated. Changing protections has become second nature.

Quarterbacks coach James Urban was asked Friday where Jackson has made the greatest strides. “Everything,” he said.

“If we started with learning how to take a snap under center and all those things, [compare that with] all that he knows how to do now,” he said. “Maybe the biggest thing that has come along is his comfort with the offense.”


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Nowhere was that more evident than during the Ravens’ most impressive throwing period of training camp, and maybe the past three months of offseason workouts. Jackson opened an 11-on-11 drill Friday by leading rookie Miles Boykin away from cornerback Jimmy Smith on a pass toward the sideline, a throw he struggled with last season.

Next was a simple safety-valve pass to Mark Andrews, by far his most trusted target. He then found another tight end, Nick Boyle, downfield for a seam-splitting 20-yard strike. Before he ceded his spot under center, Jackson connected with new wide receiver Seth Roberts on a post route for first-down yardage. The pass wobbled, as it sometimes does, but it counted all the same. Four attempts, four completions.

“We work on it a lot, and it's improved dramatically,” Urban said of Jackson’s delivery. “Some of it was adjusting to an NFL ball. Some of it was footwork and getting the body all connected. And that's a continual process. I think that's a continual process for many young quarterbacks. We would like the nice, tight, pretty spiral, but I don't get overly concerned as long as it's on time and in rhythm and an accurate throw. That's way more important than how it looks.”

As Urban wrapped up the last of the Ravens’ news conferences, the dozens of young fans still hanging around nearby, desperate for autographs, chanted Jackson’s name. At Louisville, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, Cardinals fans “fell in love with me,” he said. A similar attachment is taking hold in Baltimore. He joked about being scared to go out in public because of how often fans call out to him like he’s family: “Oh, Lamar!”

He doesn’t worry about his haters. One of his playing idols was the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady. An iconic career hasn’t made him immune to flak. “The guy has six Super Bowls,” Jackson said. “I haven’t done anything yet.”

Plus, he has his coaches to keep him humble. When a foolish across-his-body throw was picked off Thursday by safety Chuck Clark, Urban stayed in Jackson’s ear about his decision-making for the next three periods. Jackson knew he had to “get right”; he’s said he wants to be “great at everything.” One priority is accuracy ⁠— both in his passing and, apparently, in his description of his offseason weight gain.


“I’m kind of amazed by his demeanor and his personality,” Harbaugh said. “I look back at being 22 years old [and] could have only have hoped to have Lamar Jackson’s poise and balance, sense of proportion. He just is who he is. He doesn’t get flustered, doesn’t get fazed. It’s never too big for him. He keeps it about what’s important. I’m kind of blown away by that part of him.”