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Lamar Jackson earns first NFL start for Ravens as Joe Flacco's sidelined with injury

Lamar Jackson earns first NFL start for Ravens as Joe Flacco's sidelined with injury

It's the moment Lamar Jackson has been waiting for since the Baltimore Ravens drafted him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft; his first NFL start.

The team announced that Jackson will be starting under center against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Week 11 after Joe Flacco sustained a hip injury in the Ravens' Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Jackson is 7-of-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown adding 139 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in the Ravens' first nine games.

But how and when the team utilized him has lacked consistency, which has people concerned with the possibility of the rookie starting. On top of that, the Sunday matchup against Cincinnati is the Ravens' biggest game of the season and puts even more pressure on Jackson.

Sitting at 4-5 and third in the AFC North, a fourth-straight loss would all but eliminate Baltimore from playoff contention.

Jackson's teammates and coaches, however, have nothing but confidence in their quarterback.

“The young man certainly has progressed," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said about Jackson Thursday. "Smart, talented, tough – he has some great, great qualities, and [quarterbacks coach] James Urban and he have really worked hard in his progression. And, he’s done a lot of things for us up to this date.”

"He certainly has inner confidence, Mornhinweg added. "There’s no question about that, yet, very humble. So, it’s a good mix there."

Jackson missed Thursday's practice with an illness, but told the media Wednesday he has been preparing for his possible Week 11 start as if it was any other week.

When asked how he would feel if he did get the nod Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but that once the ball was snapped, "it's on."

The faster style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something the quarterback admittedly struggled with in the preseason. But with nine games behind him, Jackson feels he's made progress.

"Calling the plays," Jackson said on the area he's made the biggest strides in. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Robert Griffin III, who was also in talks of starting vs. the Bengals, has taken pride in mentoring his fellow Heisman Trophy winner.

“Lamar is like a sponge." Griffin III said Wednesday. "He’s soaking up everything he possibly can, information-wise, from myself, Joe [Flacco], the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach – coach [James] Urban. He’s been doing a great job."

The 21-year-old is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 NFL Draft that has yet to start this season. A strong showing and this could be the start of the Jackson era in Baltimore. 

Prior to Sunday, Flacco had missed just six games in 11 years, starting the last 41.

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Greg Roman rebuilding Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson in mind

Greg Roman rebuilding Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson in mind

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Greg Roman is off to a running start in his new role as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, working long hours to construct a unit that can fully utilize the talents of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens closed the regular season with a 6-1 run behind Jackson, who keyed an effective ground game with frequent forays out of the pocket and downfield. Baltimore ended a three-year hiatus from the playoffs, winning the AFC North before losing to the Chargers.

The goal this offseason is to make an effective attack even better. Promoted last month from assistant coach/tight ends coach, Roman is rewriting a playbook that was originally devised for a pass-oriented offense led by Joe Flacco.

"We're trying, soup to nuts, from the ground up ... to hit the sweet spot with how we put this offense together," Roman said Tuesday.

The focal point is Jackson, the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 draft. After Flacco injured his right hip in November, Jackson took over and displayed the slick moves and elusiveness that earned him a Heisman Trophy at Louisville.

The rookie finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 719 yards. He spearheaded a ground game that finished second in the NFL with 152.6 yards per game -- including an league-high 1,607 yards rushing over the final seven games.

"You're going to see a lot of elements of that this year," Roman said.

The result, he hopes, is something on a much grander scale.

"We have run an offense here that has kind of morphed over the years, and we really want to start fresh, start new," Roman said. "Everything from our language, our formations, how we do everything. Rebuild the thing. That's one angle.

"The other angle is really, how do we want to move forward with Lamar Jackson? He's a unique player with a unique skill set, so let's build an offense that really accommodates that, as opposed to try to fit him into something that other people had once done."

Roman took over for Marty Mornhinweg in part because of his work as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco and Buffalo, where he helped construct effective attacks with running quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.

At the time of Roman's hiring, coach John Harbaugh said, "Increasing Greg's responsibilities will help us get where we're going on offense."

Constructing a new playbook is not an easy process.

"It's a real grind. We're really looking at this as a completely new beginning, as if we were a new staff," Roman said. "I've kind of compared it to putting your kid's furniture together from IKEA or something. If you make one wrong move, you've got to take the whole thing apart and start over again."

For the offense to work, the Ravens must fortify the offensive line, get a rugged receiver capable of blocking downfield and hope Gus Edwards can continue to develop after a rookie season in which he was activated from the practice squad in October before running for a team-high 718 yards.

Most of all, however, they need Jackson to be better. His running prowess and determination are fine, but he had only one 200-yard passing game and fumbled 12 times.

"Moving forward, consistent fundamentals are what's really going to take him to the next level," Roman said, "because he's got all the ability in the world."

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Joe Flacco passes physical, is set to become Broncos' latest addition to QB carousel

Joe Flacco passes physical, is set to become Broncos' latest addition to QB carousel

Joe Flacco's journey out West is making progress.

The 34-year-old was in Denver last week and passed his physical with the Broncos, according to sources of Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, clearing a path for their trade with the Ravens to become official when the new league year begins March 13.

In a move that was expected as the team made it clear 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson is its future, the Ravens are reportedly sending Flacco to the Broncos for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Based off of one observant flyer at Denver International Airport, the former Super Bowl MVP flew commercial out of Denver in a very Flacco-like move.

'Joe Cool' will presumably be the Broncos' fourth starting quarterback in three seasons and the latest addition to their quarterback carousel.

The Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler 57th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, starting just seven games over four seasons and was eventually re-signed in 2017 where he only started four games. Then they drafted Trevor Siemian in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft, starting 24 games during the 2016-17 season, before trading up in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft for Paxton Lynch, who earned four starts in two seasons. They traded for Mark Sanchez in 2016, but he never made it to the regular season.

And finally, the Broncos signed free agent Case Keenum in 2018 to a two-year, $36 million deal. Keenum started all 16 games this season, going 365-for-586 for 3,890 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, general manager John Elway is now making room for Flacco for at least the next year. 

Flacco, who the Ravens drafted with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, has no guaranteed money left with the Ravens and is working on a one-year, $18.5 million deal with two-team option years following that. It's not a bad deal for a team that can't commit to a starting QB. 

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