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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