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Lamar Jackson looking to get Ravens wide receivers more involved

Lamar Jackson’s prowess at running with the football has helped propel the Ravens to their first AFC North title since 2012 and their first playoff berth since 2014, but the rookie quarterback continues to prioritize improving his passing ability.

Jackson is especially intent on distributing the football to wide receivers John Brown, Willie Snead IV and Michael Crabtree. The trio has been instrumental in blocking to open up running lanes for Jackson and running backs Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon and Ty Montgomery, but Jackson said he wants the wideouts to feel involved.

“Those guys have been working their tails off,” he said prior to Wednesday afternoon’s practice in Owings Mills. “Sometimes they’re not getting the ball as much as they should. Sometimes they won’t get a catch for the game, and I’ll be madder than they would. I’ll go, ‘I’m trying to get you the ball.’ They’re like, ‘You good, you good,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not good. When you guys score, then I’m good.’ But it’s pretty cool to have guys like that on the team.”

The receivers’ opportunities have been severely reduced since Jackson succeeded Joe Flacco as the starter for the last seven games. In nine games with Flacco under center, Crabtree averaged 8.4 targets, Snead 7.7 and Brown 7.4, but with Jackson, Crabtree has seen 3.4 targets, Snead 3.7 and Brown 4.3.

Similarly, Crabtree has slid from 4.6 receptions and 52.4 yards to 1.9 and 19.3. Brown has gone from 3.8 catches and 66.8 yards to 1.1 and 16.3, while Snead has dropped from 6.4 receptions and 64 yards to 2.4 and 29.

Snead acknowledged after Sunday’s 26-24 win against the Cleveland Browns that the dwindling number of chances has been a challenge for the receivers.

“You want the ball, but at this point in the season, it was all about the team,” he said. “We had a chance to win the division, and so you have to do the things that work. I think as Lamar grows in the passing game and matures, we’ll have more opportunities to take shots down the field. But right now, we’re playing very good complementary football. And that’s what it took to win the AFC North, and that’s what’s going to help us in the playoffs.”

The receivers’ attitude has been heartily welcomed by Jackson, coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the team.

“They want to win, they want to do whatever they can to help us win,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “But that’s not always the case. I mean, everybody wants to win, but most people want to win on their own terms, and these guys have put away their own terms a little bit a lot probably. They’re blocking. We’re motioning across and cutting off back-side defensive ends with our wide receivers. Those guys are doing that. That’s a tough duty, but they have embraced it.”

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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