Lamar Jackson has carried the ball nine times for 35 yards through the Ravens’ first three games, and in Sunday’s 27-14 win against the Denver Broncos, the rookie quarterback was integrated into the offense in a new way: as the target of a throw by quarterback Joe Flacco.
On first down-and-10 at Denver’s 20-yard line, Flacco dropped back and scanned the field for receivers. Finding no one open, Flacco fired the ball to his right where Jackson was standing. The throw was off-target, and even if Jackson had caught it, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was bearing down on him, perhaps licking his chops about a potential bone-jarring tackle.
On Monday, coach John Harbaugh said Jackson is an option in the passing game.
“Well, he’s in the progression,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not the first guy. Probably part of that is to draw a little coverage to us and throw the seams behind it. We had a crossing route coming across there with that also, and it did come open that we didn’t get to, and Joe tried to pop it to Lamar real fast and get him running. But he’s definitely in the progression.”
Risking Jackson, the organization’s second of two first-round picks in April’s NFL draft who did not catch a pass at Louisville, might not seem like a wise decision. But Harbaugh reasoned that when Jackson is on the field, he’s as much a viable option for a pass as any of the receivers are.
“If you’re going to put him out there, you’ve got to be willing to throw it to him,” Harbaugh said. “Probably wasn’t as open as we would like him to be.”