I blame the Madden generation. You people — I’m definitely one of those people — just want a team full of rookies to start and play right away. You folks out there think new is always better, and if a guy is 26 years old he might as well be 92 years old when you put your fantasy general manager hat on.
I am mostly joking, but when quarterback Lamar Jackson was selected No. 32 overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft, there were people ready to cut quarterback Joe Flacco on the spot. In reality, adaptation to the NFL is different for everyone, and there is extra stress on the learning curve when it come to the quarterback position. So, even if you were a Ravens fan that was ready for the Flacco Era to be over, moving on from him isn’t even about him.
It’s about Jackson, but more importantly, it’s about Jackson’s time in the league.
When Jackson took over in the second quarter of his team’s Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts, he started the game 0-for-4 passing.
His first throw of the game is shown above. It’s a simple throw he should have made — Jackson certainly has the arm to do so. I saw Jackson laser some passes into receivers during his two-year stretch as Louisville’s starting quarterback, so I’m not doubting what he’s capable of. But consistency is key in the NFL, and when you’re a starting quarterback, you can’t afford to have a warm-up period. When guys are that open, you have to hit them, first throw or not.
In his second game, Jackson just didn’t seem comfortable right off the bat. He had no problem throwing the ball, as was evident by his team-high 15 passing attempts, but after completing less than half of them it was clear he just doesn’t have the timing of things down yet.
The play above and a play later in the game where Jackson went deep into the end zone were throws Jackson can absolutely make, and I believe he can make them with regularity. But, on the one above and the one that came later, you could tell he just didn’t have the correct gauge on the touch he needed to have to get the ball to his guy at the right spot away from the defender.
Jackson is also still working through some tendencies he had in college that won’t really fly in the NFL, which is still totally normal at this point.
Jackson was the most dynamic player in the country for two straight years, and because of that plays like the one above where he kept the ball and tried to run with it make sense. However, in this league, he should have dumped it off to the running back the second he got out of danger from the pocket and that likely would have been a nice five-yard gain.
In college football, especially when you’re Lamar Jackson, you really don’t have to care about the little gains because you know you’ll make up for them with the big ones eventually. That’s not the case in the NFL. Jackson still has to work through teaching his mind to take the little victories on each play.
It wasn’t an awful night for Jackson, however. He did throw one touchdown and did not have an interception. But, even on the touchdown throw, you can see his mind process things for bigger plays instead of taking the little ones.
Jackson got the ball out to the man who scored on that play, but he waited until the last second to do so. In reality, that ball probably should have been out and to the tight end on the goal line, rather than delayed to the man at the back of the end zone.
It’s those little mental processing changes that still need to take place for Jackson before the Ravens can hand him the reins. I think Jackson is absolutely the quarterback of the future for the Ravens, but that doesn’t mean he has to start Week 1 in real life like he does on my Madden team after every fantasy draft I conduct.
For now, stick with Flacco and let Jackson grow for a little while longer. You’ll thank yourself later.