Multiple times last Sunday against the Washington Football Team, quarterback Lamar Jackson let a deep pass fly. And multiple times his receivers found themselves behind the Washington defense.
And almost each time, Jackson’s passes were just a touch off.
The Ravens have been on the precipice of creating big plays in every game this season. Very few of them, however, have connected.
Through four games, the Ravens’ offense is, statistically, still one of the league’s better offenses. But they’ve left points on the field in just about every game they’ve played, mostly from the passing attack.
“I see it as a work in progress,” Jackson said. “I’m getting better every week — not just myself, but my team. And no, I’m not happy, because those passes, I would like to connect with my guys on those passes. I feel like it’s a lot of yards and touchdowns we’ve been leaving on the field when we don’t connect. So, that’s’ probably why our passing is not where it’s supposed to be. But it’s still early in the season. We have 12 more regular season games.”
Jackson ranks tied for 12th in the league with 7.8 yards-per-pass-attempt and 14th among all passers with a 68.4 percent completion percentage. Those numbers, paired with Jackson’s rushing ability, still makes him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. But it’s clear he’s got more to offer.
Through four games, according to NextGenStats, Jackson has attempted 17 passes of more than 20 yards down the field. He’s completed just five of them with one touchdown. A year ago, according to Football Outsiders, the league average for completed deep passes was 47.7 percent. Jackson, at 29.4 percent, hasn’t been what he’s hoped so far.
“We’re just not hitting them — that’s all,” Jackson said. “We just have to, like I said, just get in practice and connect. We work hard in practice, and when we start connecting there, then it will transition over to the game. We’ll be fine.”
If the Ravens are able to connect on a few more of those deep shots, two-touchdown wins should turn into blowouts like they experienced last year.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman indicated that defenses are giving up the short passes in order to prevent the deep plays. Once teams move more players into the box to prevent the run game and quick passing plays, the Ravens will be free to take their shot over-the-top.
“It’s only four games in,” wideout Marquise Brown said. “We’re still learning; we’re still building. Just get better as a whole unit. Like I said – when the opportunity presents itself, we’ve just got to hit. If we hit on a couple passes, people wouldn’t even be questioning some stuff. We’ll just take our chances and hit them when they come.”
Through four games this season, Brown has 16 catches for 242 yards and zero touchdowns — though he made a catch at the one-yard line against the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
In the last two weeks, he’s been targeted 14 times and made just six catches. Against the Chiefs, he made just two catches for 13 yards. Against Washington, he was just a tad off connecting on some deep throws.
In short, the Ravens believe their deep passes are soon going to connect. With a rushing attack ranked third in the league and one of the deepest backfields in the league, the Ravens have as much confidence as ever in the run game.
The pass game, however, has yet to come around.
“We’ve got to start hitting on some of our downfield throws,” Roman said. “When you run the ball a lot, you need to be able to attack the intermediate and downfield parts of the field. That’s something, really with everything we’re doing, is a work in progress. We’re working hard, we’ve hit all those passes before and we’ll hit them again.”