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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