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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson feeling confident as ever as Ravens end training camp

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson feeling confident as ever as Ravens end training camp

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson has never felt more comfortable as the starting quarterback of the Ravens. 

As training camp officially ended Tuesday in Owings Mills, the Ravens signal-caller knows his knowledge of the game has grown exponentially in the last year.

“I’m way ahead, way ahead of where I was last year,” Jackson said. “I was asking coach ‘What we got right here?’ and stuff like that. This year it’s a lot of studying and (being) dialed in on my playbook.”

Jackson started seven games for the Ravens last year, and while he posted a 6-1 record, only threw 158 passes in those seven games – an average of 22.5 passes a game. The league average last season was 34.5.

But Jackson has improved as a passer in the offseason and has shown flashes of his improvement at training camp over the last few weeks. 

“We got after it,” Jackson said of the offense’s performance in camp. “Defense giving us great looks, our offense moving the ball, making executions, scoring touchdowns, we’re looking good so far.”

One of the areas no one on the team is worried about, however, is Jackson’s leadership. 

“He’s a leader, he’s an understanding guy,” wide receiver Jaleel Scott said. “He talks to us, he cheers us on through the ups and downs, so he’s just an understanding guy. When you have a quarterback that’s understanding and talks to you, you’d do anything for him.”

Even as the offense ran a fairly basic playbook last Thursday against the Jaguars, more of the same is expected this Thursday against the Packers. 

“We weren’t trying to reinvent football in that game,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Saturday. “We were staying extremely basic and had an opportunity to let them get their feet wet and go out and execute, and evaluate, correct it, and see who gets the improvements, see who gets the corrections and makes that connection.”

Still, a fair amount is expected of the offense as the regular season draws nearer — and thus, Jackson's role operating it.

He’ll be helped out by the eventual return of Marquise Brown, who returned to practice Tuesday in his recovery from a Lisfranc injury in his foot. He took team reps for the first time on Saturday, but missed practice Monday in his recovery.

“It felt pretty good, got me in a good day off to get some rest,” Brown said. “Opened up more, got some shots and was able to make some plays.”

11 players, on both offense and defense, missed practice Tuesday. Notably, cornerback Jimmy Smith was absent. Others missing practice were: Seth Roberts, Randin Crecelius, Greg Senat, Marshal Yanda, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall, Pernell McPhee, Mike Onuoha and Matthew Judon.

But the biggest story, the one that has everyone in Baltimore excited, is the emergence of Jackson in the team’s new offense. And as training camp ended before the team’s second preseason game, he’s got the trust of everyone in the building.

“He’s a freak, he’s just a freak,” Scott said. “There are certain things that you just, you’re just looking at it, and you don’t understand. But when you realize he’s a Heisman-winning quarterback, you’re like, ‘OK, that’s Lamar.’ He’s a freak.”

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Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson didn’t grow up watching Michael Vick play football in Atlanta. He was too young. 

That didn't stop Jackson, born when Vick had just finished his sophomore year of high school, from studying Vick's highlight tapes as a kid.

Now, on Sunday in Buffalo, Jackson has the chance to put his name in the record books ahead of his favorite player with the most impressive season a quarterback has ever had on the ground. 

With just 63 yards rushing, Jackson would rank first all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. The record, as of Thursday, is held by Vick with 1,039 yards rushing. Vick set the record in 2006 with the Falcons.

“It would be an honor,” Jackson said. “Like I said, Michael Vick is my favorite player. For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win, regardless.”

Jackson has led the NFL’s most dynamic offense through the first 12 games with a mix of rushing and passing that’s kept defenses on their heels. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 977 yards, which is more than five teams have as a whole.

Currently, Jackson has rushed for 1,672 yards in 28 games in his NFL career, good for 44th all-time. 

Over a 16-game season, he’s on pace for 1,302 yards on the ground, which would shatter Vick’s old record and put Jackson in another stratosphere compared to some of the best mobile quarterbacks the league has ever seen. 

Should he finish with 1,302 yards this year, he’ll be at 1,997 yards through his first two NFL seasons. That would put him 32nd all-time and about 500 yards away from cracking the top 20. 

So as Jackson adds to his place in history in the long term, there’s a significant record to break in the short-term, too.

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Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson take the field on Sunday, they’ll set an NFL record before either one takes a snap from under center. 

The matchup pits the two second-year quarterbacks against one another in the NFL’s best matchup for rushing quarterbacks in history. 

The biggest difference, however, is how those yards have been reached. Jackson’s speed and acceleration is something the league hasn’t seen before, and while Allen can move, it’s not just his moves that make him difficult to bring around. 

“He’s a big kid, man, he’s like tackling a tight end scrambling,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “It’s going to be a great challenge. So we’ll see what happens on Sunday. He makes a lot of plays on his feet, that’s been their success the last five, six weeks.”

At 6-foot-5, Allen has been a problem for opposing defenses to bring down all season. He’s rushed for 430 yards (third-best for quarterbacks) and eight touchdowns (tied for sixth in the NFL).

“It's not like he's a pipsqueak or anything like that,” Josh Bynes said. “He's a big, solid quarterback, and he runs like a running back. That makes it a little bit more challenging, because he's a quarterback, as well. So, we just have to make sure we wrap up and we bring our pads with us and bring our feet and just make sure we get him to the ground.”

Allen’s size has made him a tall-task for defenses, which plays out in a deeper dive of the numbers. 

According to Pro Football Reference, Allen ranks 22nd in the NFL in yards before contact at 2.2. Jackson ranks first at 4.8 yards.

But Allen averages 2.4 yards per rush after contact, 13th in the NFL and first for quarterbacks.

“When you watch him, he can run and move around,” Chuck Clark said. “He’s more elusive than what people would say or think. He can definitely get out the pocket, extend the play and run the ball himself. They’ve got a solid offense, they’re effective at what they do.”

Allen rushed for 631 yards last season in 12 games — the same amount as he’s played so far this year. He’s gotten better as a passer from a year ago, having improved his completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

But while his big-time arm is something the Ravens are still focused on, it’s Allen’s legs — and size — that pose an extra dimension to his game that can be dangerous for the Ravens.

“You just have to be fundamentally sound and make sure you wrap him up, drive your feet if possible,” Michael Pierce said. “With the penalties, you have to be very careful. But he's a physical dude, big, 6-4 guy, so yes, you have to be fundamentally sound and bring your pads with you.” 

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