OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Tom Brady and Drew Brees have set a high bar for NFL quarterbacks.
If the younger players want to emulate those former Super-Bowl champions, they'll have to develop the same type of work ethic.
Lamar Jackson is still going through some growing pains as the Ravens' quarterback.
After three seasons in Baltimore, Jackson has broken records, was named league MVP and won his first playoff game this past season.
However, Jackson still needs to progress as a quarterback, namely with throwing outside the numbers, becoming more accurate with his downfield passes, improving his footwork and avoiding crucial turnovers.
Lamar Jackson's Career Stats
2018 — 16 games, 58.24 completion rate, 1,201 yds, 6 TDS, 3 INTs
2019 — 15 games, 66.08 completion rate 3,127 yds, 36 TDS, 6 INTs
2020 —15 games, 64.36 completion rate, 2,757 yds, 26 TDS, 9 INTs
Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects Jackson to continue to progress as a quarterback this offseason. Perhaps one day, he'll have the same postseason success and Brady and Brees.
"He’s a young player still and he’s going to continue to grow. I think if you talk to Brady and Brees, they would tell you that their growth continues right up until the day they retire," Harbaugh said. "I know Brady works in the offseason and Brees and those guys. Lamar, I think, is just embarking on that, he’s just starting on that and kind of figuring that out for himself. Like, what’s his method going to be?
"And how is he going to go about growing into, ultimately, the quarterback that he’s going to peak at going forward? I know that’s kind of just general talk, but the truth is he needs to get better – just like all the players. But as a quarterback, it’s the toughest position, and he’ll tell you, he needs to get better at everything, and everything that goes with playing quarterback."
One year after being named NFL, MVP, Jackson had another solid season. He threw for 2,757 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions (99.3 rating). Jackson also became the first quarterback in league history to record two 1,000 yards rushing seasons.
"His skillset [and] his talent is really remarkable and unique," Harbaugh said. "He’s got a great arm. He’s a naturally gifted thrower, in terms of he’s got arm talent, you would call it. He can run, he can extend plays, he sees the field well. Some of the plays he makes are just … We all, ‘Wow.’ That’s Lamar, how did he do that? He did that in the game against the Bills, too. I think those are the things that make him so exciting and dangerous.
"And then, you just build a foundation with that, in terms of the footwork on the drops, the consistency of throwing the ball and putting it in the spots you want to put it. All the depths of the field, and all spots of the field. All the timing routes. All the drop-backs – the different three-, five-, seven-step drops, the play-action drop-backs, the movement drop-backs in the pistol, under center, in the gun [shotgun formation]."
Jackson's 2020 season came to a disappointing end with a 17-3 loss to the Bills. He threw a critical interception on a third-and-goal to Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson, who ran 101 yards for the score. Baltimore never recovered and Jackson was later forced from the game with a concussion.
He fell to 1-3 in the postseason over his young career and his teammates said it was another learning experience. Despite some of that frustration, Jackson is already one of the most dominant players in the NFL.
"He’s going to work on all of those [route trees]with all the different guys in the spots, and his receivers getting together with him," Harbaugh said. "That’s what quarterbacks do, and Lamar is no different than anybody else. He’s going to work hard at that stuff, and he’s going to improve and get better, and it’ll show up in how he plays next year."