Ravens' John Harbaugh Believes Lamar Jackson Will 'Take the Next Step'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2020

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens in action during the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson had one of the best individual seasons in NFL history in 2019. 

John Harbaugh thinks he can only do better. The Baltimore Ravens coach said he thinks Jackson will take "the next step" in 2020 by beating teams that crowd the line of scrimmage against the run.

"Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it. We absolutely have to make them pay," Harbaugh said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN. "The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe that's the next step of this offense. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step."

Jackson made incredible strides as a passer last season, throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns against six interceptions on his way to winning league MVP honors. He completed 66.1 percent of his passes, the first time he's ever topped the 60 percent mark at the high school, college or pro level.

While that statistical ascent might scream regression to the mean, the underlying numbers show his improvement could be permanent. Jackson didn't dink-and-dunk his way to artificially improving his passing numbers. His average intended air yards ranked eighth among quarterbacks, essentially equal to Aaron Rodgers.

Where Jackson could improve is being more consistently aggressive with his passes. His aggressiveness percentage ranked 12th-lowest among quarterbacks. That's not necessarily a problem; Jackson was more "aggressive" than Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Rodgers last season. But Jackson completed just 35 passes all season that traveled more than 15 yards in the air, and he was 6-of-17 on those throws in the Ravens' divisional round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Given the amount of leeway opposing teams give him on those throws due to the Ravens' ground attack, Jackson will have to start hitting passes over the top to avoid the league catching up to him.