OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There are some questions about whether Lamar Jackson can make the necessary strides as a passer. There is uncertainty whether Jackson can remain healthy if he continues to run the ball as often as he does.
What has never been scrutinized about Jackson is his work ethic.
Jackson has drawn rave reviews at the Baltimore Ravens‘ offseason conditioning program, which began this week. He has been in the weight room, lifting and doing chin-ups. He has been on the field, running around a series of cones before sprinting back 15 yards.
“It’s really exciting to see a guy like that, from let’s say a position group that historically is not really into training necessarily, embrace it this early,” strength coach Steve Saunders said. “Lamar is ready to take the next step as a pro and train a little harder and start working out those little things, that 5 percent that make a big difference even in a guy that’s already a genetic freak.”
Beyond becoming bigger, faster and stronger, Jackson is looking to improve in the finer details of the game. Traveling to Baltimore for the start of the offseason program, Jackson was on the same flight as new Ravens running back Mark Ingram and asked him about the pass patterns he ran for Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Jackson has made a strong first impression on Ingram, who is coming from playing with the NFL’s all-time leading passer.
“He’s really mature, and his mind is definitely in the right places,” Ingram said. “He wants to get here early, get in the film room [and] study. He’s a hard worker, and he’s just a good dude.”
Jackson’s commitment to putting in the work was considered a strength even before Baltimore drafted him with the final pick of last year’s first round. He was around the facility so much that coach John Harbaugh described him as a “gym rat.”
After last season’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Jackson took the remainder of January to rest. Then, for the next two months, Jackson threw the ball five times a week in an effort to boost his 84.5 passer rating, which ranked 30th last season.
“Lamar is our quarterback. It’s his team. We’re following his lead,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “We know how big of a leader he can be, and how special he can be on the football field. He’s putting in the work, and that’s the type of guy he is.”
Last year at this time, Jackson was making pre-draft visits to teams, hoping he would get drafted in the first round. Now, with Joe Flacco traded to Denver, Jackson is the unquestioned starting quarterback for the defending AFC North champions.
His teammates have seen a change in Jackson’s demeanor.
“His swag is a lot different because he knows he’s QB1 and it’s a situation where his confidence and his humbleness is there,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “I feel this year you can kind of tell he knows what to expect going into the day, and he knows what to expect once we hit the field.”
So, how much better can Jackson be in his second season with all of this hard work?
“I don’t feel like I’m the best I can be right now,” Jackson said. “I’ll have to see when the season comes. Still working.”