By Jordan Gold
When the Ravens open preseason Aug. 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, all eyes will be on the offense to see how much offensive coordinator Greg Roman reveals about his plans for Year Two of the Lamar Jackson era.
After a strong rookie campaign in which he was the only rookie quarterback to make the playoffs, the focus for fans and media during Ravens training camp has been Jackson. Many around the league are curious to see how the dual-threat product out of Louisville has improved his passing.
One of those around the league who has been particularly curious about the progression of Jackson is former Jaguar and three-time All-Pro offensive tackle Tony Boselli. With the Ravens hosting the Jags in their first preseason game, the two teams held joint practices Aug. 5 and 6. Boselli, an analyst for the Jaguars Radio Network and Westwood One, was in Owings Mills, Md., taking in the action.
Boselli was on the call for the Ravens’ 23-17 wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in January. Jackson threw for 194 yards on 14-of-29 passing.
“I was thoroughly impressed with Lamar Jackson [Aug. 5]. Doing the playoff game for Westwood One last year when the Chargers beat the Ravens and watching a bunch of tape leading up to that game, I thought that Lamar Jackson was not very good in the passing game,” Boselli said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 6. “He was wildly inaccurate, all over the place and didn’t have a good feel in the pocket. Everyone knew he is an amazing athlete, but you just saw the other qualities that I think you need to have to win as a quarterback in this league [that] I did not see in him last year.”
Although Boselli was not high on Jackson after the playoff loss to Los Angeles last year, his opinion on the second-year quarterback has changed quite a bit.
“It’s only one day, but I came out looking for it and he is greatly improved. You can tell he has worked on it,” Boselli said. “His accuracy is what stood out to me. The whole delivery is really tight and on time. It did not look like he was trying to get out there and run around with happy feet in the pocket.”
Among rookie quarterbacks last year, Jackson ranked second behind the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield in completion percentage (58.2), but only averaged 159 passing yards per game, which was last among rookie quarterbacks who played regularly in 2018.
The Browns’ roster has improved thanks to additions like receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and the Pittsburgh Steelers are a threat even with the losses of running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown. Jackson’s progression is crucial for the Ravens if they want to win a second straight AFC North title.
“You’ve got to be able to throw the ball, and what I think is super positive is that I have seen huge progress out of Lamar Jackson. If he stays on this trajectory he’s going to be a really dang good quarterback,” Boselli said. “Last year he was not a dual threat. He was a threat with his legs, but no one was too worried about him throwing the ball consistently. From the practice [Aug. 5], he looked good. The accuracy was really on the spot.”
Former Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail, currently an analyst for WJZ, has also been impressed by Jackson in camp. Ismail is intrigued to see how Jackson will fare in Roman’s offense compared to last year, when Jackson worked with former coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“Greg Roman was brought in to give [Jackson] an understanding of an offense he can control manage and thrive in. When you look at Marty Mornhinweg’s offense there were times when he was confused with the nomenclature and did not feel settled,” Ismail said on GCR July 31.
Last year, starting only seven games, Jackson broke the NFL single-season record for rushes by a quarterback. He ran the ball 147 times for 695 yards and five touchdowns. Ismail thinks Jackson will still run the ball a lot this year but should also do a better job of getting everyone involved on offense.
“Overall when you look at Lamar, I think if he can get comfortable giving everyone opportunities to thrive in the offense then he probably won’t average 10 carries a game,” Ismail said. “If he doesn’t then he will have those plays where he ad-libs and puts himself in harm’s way.”
To hear more from Boselli and Ismail, listen to the full interviews here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox