Lamar Jackson turned 22 years old a day after the Ravens suffered through a disappointing loss in the Wild Card round against the Los Angeles Chargers. As a 21 year old, Lamar Jackson accomplished a great deal. 42 Louisville school records. a Heisman and a runner up. Jackson was a first round draft pick, the second youngest quarterback selected, and significantly outplayed most pundit’s expectations.
L.J. posted the second highest QB rating, lowest interception percentage, and has played in more playoff home games than the Cleveland Browns have since the AFC North was created. Jackson has displayed flashes of brilliance and also showed areas that he desperately needs to improve.
Jackson needs to keep two hands on the ball in the pocket. He needs to allow the running-back to take the ball on read options more, instead of hanging onto the ball for too long and causing a fumble. He needs to step into his short throws and follow through more (especially on outside screens). He needs to make sure he doesn’t short-arm the ball and deliver strikes. Finally, among other things, he needs to continue to develop his strong throwing base.
Let’s take a look at how far Jackson has come since his early years at Louisville:
Jackson had a tendency to stand with his feet too close together in the pocket. Power comes from a wide base. A narrow base causes overcompensation from the upper body, making the task harder than necessary. This translates to difficulty repeating the same motion. In the NFL, consistency is king.
Lamar stated after voluntary OTA’s that “laziness” was the reason for some of his inaccuracy. Jackson has never seemed to be the lazy type. He’s a gym rat. That simply means that he isn’t practiced enough yet where his throwing motion is an afterthought, rather something that he still needs to focus on. With first team reps, more practice, and hard work… Jackson will improve.
That improvement can’t happen overnight. Mike Vick completed merely 44% of his passes over seven starts during his rookie season. Dak Prescott completed 67%. They are not the same person, but if you gave Michael Vick Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Ezekiel Elliott… that’s a scary thought.
Translation— build the offensive line.
The Ravens offensive lineman weren’t pushovers by any stretch of the imagination. Ronnie Stanley allowed the lowest percentage of pressure of any LT in the league. Yanda hasn’t let up a sack in years. Orlando Brown Jr. was doing this as a rookie:
That’s all good news. However, there was much to be left desired at the center and left guard positions. Take a look at what happened when the Ravens faced some top tier defensive line talent:
Geno Atkins is arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL over the last ten years. It’s certainly no easy task to anchor him after snapping the ball. Lamar was still able to make a decent throw despite the interior pressure:
Again, Lamar is able to make an accurate throw despite interior pressure:
Jackson’s ability to reset in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and continue to keep the play alive are elite. His fundamental consistency in his base and throwing motion is below average by NFL standards. Let’s look at some of Jackson’s worst moments from this past year:
When Lamar Jackson feels rushed before he can read the coverage, he tries to snap his arm with a side-arm release, doesn’t point his toes to his receiver and essentially throws the ball away. Not pointing his body to his target to really debilitates his accuracy. However, the other rookie QBs also suffered from inaccuracy and were more turnover prone than Jackson.
Lamar lost four fumbles and threw three interceptions over his seven regular season starts. He averaged one turnover per game. That was the lowest per game ratio of the five first round quarterbacks selected in 2018. Two of those lost fumbles were strip sacks as he was bringing the ball up to throw. Does Lamar need to hold onto the ball with two hands more often? Yes. Is it as bad as the average Joe makes it seem? No.
With all of that being said, Lamar’s capability to escape the pocket, buy time, and keep his eyes downfield are exceptional. However, if the Ravens get more stout up front at center and left guard, it will only allow for elevated success. The three positions of need that fans and pundits alike mock the Ravens to draft are receivers, interior offensive lineman and edge rushers. Ravens’ Nation clamors for receivers because they’re flashy. However, it’s downright irresponsible to ignore the interior offensive line.
If Marshal Yanda is injured (knock on wood) and heaven forbid Orlando Brown or Ronnie Stanley have to miss time, what becomes of the offensive line? Do we want some combination of Skura, Lewis, Hurst, Eluemunor protecting the 22 year-old who’s still developing into a consistent passer? Particularly one who has had some trouble keeping the ball off the turf?
That’s why it’s systematically irresponsible for the Ravens to fail to address the offensive line in 2019’s NFL Draft. There are a few players who can play guard or center from day one:
Erik McCoy is the most impressive power/pulling center I’ve seen in quite some time. He EXPLODES out of the blocks and possesses a wonderful combination of punch, footwork, IQ and power. He fared better than anyone else against ‘Bama and Clemson’s NFL caliber front-7’s, respectively.
The reason I like McCoy over Garrett Bradbury is because he is more suited for a power running scheme with lots of pulls, traps, etc. Bradbury is also a stud, but seems to be a better fit for a zone rushing scheme. Greg Roman is notorious for his power concepts. I think McCoy has the slight edge as a pulling center, but both would be an upgrade at center or left guard in 2019. Plus… McCoy is just downright mean…
The more I hear about Garrett Bradbury, the more I believe that the #Vikings would be getting one heck of a player in the 1st round if they chose him. League folks keep saying to just watch the Clemson tape. Here’s clips from that game, and others: pic.twitter.com/ZOCV9Jwxn5
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) April 22, 2019
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah referred to Bradbury as “The Grim Reacher” because of his outstanding ability in reach and combo blocks. Bradbury is extremely mobile at getting to the second level to wall off linebackers, or to reach and seal a double team and open up a running lane. He is quick as lightening off the snap, and seems to be an extremely smart player. The ONE knock I have against Bradbury is that he doesn’t have the greatest “anchor” or ability to stonewall a bull rush by sinking his hips and using leverage. It’s not a weakness by any means, but some NFL strength and conditioning could certainly help the converted tight end continue to get stronger as he matures.
ASU DT Renell Wren vs. NCST OC Garrett Bradbury
Wren’s sheer force from his bull rush is too much for Bradbury to get inside hand placement. pic.twitter.com/ZRrkWcN9vx
— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) January 23, 2019
With that being said, don’t be confused, Bradbury is a mean S.O.B.
Want a fun film to watch…
2016 NC State O vs Clemson D
Young wide eyed LG named Garrett Bradbury was out here taking names!! Always looking for work!! pic.twitter.com/Ru2XTki2G6
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 26, 2019
Cody Ford– Tackle/Guard, Oklahoma
Cody Ford is a nasty/violent/heavy handed OL.
Consistently jolts and rocks DL on contact. Breckyn Hager is a senior with 47 games at Texas and get tossed around like this?! Whoa. (And yea, you fall down – Ford is coming to get you! OL checks and balances )#2019NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/Z4I34da1JM
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 27, 2019
Ford is just a jerk. He’s mean. He’s your older brother. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, and you annoy him. He’s that bouncer that keeps giving you dirty looks, but you wouldn’t dare say a word to because he just scares the crap out of you.
Cody Ford vs Texas was impressive.
– Generates movement on down blocks & when asked to move laterally
– Shows ability to mirror defenders in space, sink hips and deliver strong punch
-Stout anchor in pass pro, shows the abiility to counter with defenders
— Josh Mensch (@JoshMenschNFL) February 20, 2019
Eyes on the RT
Cody Ford is an elite finisher. His attitude, sense of urgency, and physicality all bring a special presence to the field. Just a few examples: pic.twitter.com/bS1Vbchidn
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 12, 2019
Ford presents a little different ability than McCoy as he probably could be a quality tackle in this league. On the Ravens, he would kick inside to guard, as he did for the majority of his career. However, he would be a great option should injuries cause some rotation among the Ravens’ big men. He is better when pulling or running with the ball right behind him, rather than on outside zone plays as a tackle. His strong paws clamp down, then don’t stop until opponent is on the ground or the whistle is blown. He could take over once Yanda leaves, and the Ravens could continue to play bully ball for years to come.
Risner is a rarity. He’s played all five positions over 42 starts at the college level. He isn’t quite as athletically gifted or powerful as the lineman previously mentioned, but he has smarts, heart and versatility. He uses good technique and is an able mover. He might not be as massive as some of the other lineman in this draft like Jawaan Taylor or Andre Dillard, but he would provide great versatility for the Ravens with his experience playing multiple positions. Some of the top tier talent at the college level got the best of Risner, but he also made sure to make an impact on them as well. He sort of reminds me of James Hurst with his versatility, but has much better footwork and could reach a Pro Bowl level.
Montez Sweat (EDGE Mississippi State) has some of the best hands in this class. This is the rare one-arm pancake … and that’s on Dalton Risner who is a legit hoss. This is downright disrespectful. pic.twitter.com/l1vXWNPlBb
— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) January 30, 2019
Lindstrom has a baby face, but don’t tell him that. He’s a technician who explodes off the ball. To me, he’s the best guard in this draft. He drives defenders off the ball with a combination of technique and strength. He’s also a better athlete than given credit for. I think Yanda would love to play with this dude, and show him the ropes. Not that Lindstrom needs that much help anyway…
BC OL Chris Lindstrom no problem running Brian Burns around the arc…
Lindstrom looks like a block but he’s one of the more athletic OL in this draft. I love @LanceZierlein comp of Joel Bitonio… Watching his 2017 tape at RT. Could literally play every position on the line IMO pic.twitter.com/Pds5903F2T
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 22, 2019
Been waiting to do this one. The #Patriots have shown a lot of interest in BC OL Chris Lindstrom (RG, #75). Here’s why. Start with explosiveness and hand strikes in the run game. Quickly gets into Gerald Willis’ frame with heavy and accurate hands. Owns him on both these runs. pic.twitter.com/aqif9yVo1a
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 27, 2019
As previously stated, regardless whether the Ravens trade up, down, left, or right, they need to solidify the offensive line. In my opinion, Erik McCoy will be an All Pro player early on, and would give the Ravens exactly what they need moving forward. Any of these five lineman would ensure that regardless of injury, the Ravens can trot out a formidable offensive line to give Lamar the time to find receivers.
Whether they catch the ball or not, offensive lineman win championships, not receivers. I would like to see them double dip to ensure the Ravens have the blockers they need to pound the rock. Everything else can fall in place later, Baltimore needs to address the line Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
What position must the Ravens address in the 2019 draft?
Center and/or Guard
147 votes total