OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Back on the Ravens practice field for the first time since early December, Lamar Jackson didn’t take part in 11-on-11 team drills on Wednesday as Tyler Huntley instead ran the first-team offense.
Head coach John Harbaugh said the plan is to “ramp him up in terms of the conditioning,” but the franchise quarterback said he expects to be present for the remainder of voluntary organized team activities and expressed plenty of excitement about what he’s seen learning Todd Monken’s system, which is “basically just giving us the keys to the offense.” More pre-snap control at the line of scrimmage was one of the traits Jackson desired when the Ravens parted ways with offensive coordinator Greg Roman in January.
“You can change things when you want to,” said Jackson, who’s also happy about the offense operating at a quicker pace. “You see the defense, [and if] it’s not looking right to you, you see a guy blitzing, [or] you might want your receiver to do something different, coach [Monken] has given you the free will to do whatever you want to.”
That will include more passing than they did under Roman, which is hardly a surprise after general manager Eric DeCosta signed veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor and drafted Zay Flowers in the first round to remake a wide receiver room regarded as one of the league’s worst last season.
Jackson seemingly walked back the comment made earlier this month about throwing for 6,000 yards — which garnered too much serious reaction anyway — but the 26-year-old made clear that he wants to throw down the field more often. He also said “running can only take you so far” in the modern NFL, a sentiment shared by countless critics of Roman’s offense since the record-setting 2019 campaign.
Of course, we’re a long way from seeing what Monken’s offense actually looks like when the games begin this fall, but Jackson is pleased to be able to do more through the air, eager to show off the arm in which he’s always been confident despite his detractors. After signing the former NFL MVP to a five-year, $260 million contract earlier this month, the Ravens are counting on these changes taking their offense to new heights, which must include playing deeper into January.
“Less running and more throwing,” said Jackson, who has led Baltimore in rushing attempts in four of his five seasons and in rushing yards four straight years. “I hear a lot of noise about throwing and stuff like yards to achieve and stuff, but I’m not really worried about yards as much.
“It’s about us just winning. That will be all.”
Harbaugh pleased with OTA attendance
Jackson headlined the list of veterans reporting for voluntary OTA workouts this week, but a total of 16 players on the preseason roster weren’t participating in Wednesday’s session open to reporters.
That list included tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, fullback Patrick Ricard, right guard Kevin Zeitler, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and safety Kyle Hamilton.
A few non-participants were observers on the sideline or running on on a side field — including Ricard and Edwards — and Harbaugh mentioned Andrews and Beckham as two veterans working out on their own, something he doesn’t “have any problem with” at this stage of the offseason. Baltimore’s three-day mandatory minicamp begins June 13.
“I think it’s important. I’m a coach. I want everybody here,” said Harbaugh about attendance at OTAs. “I want every player here all the time doing everything they can. Now, is that necessarily the best thing? I don’t know. Everybody has got their own circumstance, and that’s OK.”
Each returning from season-ending foot surgery, wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay were both participating on Wednesday, but Bateman worked off to the side after the early individual periods of practice. Harbaugh also explained Hamilton’s absence by saying the second-year safety “just tightened up a little bit,” reiterating “he’ll be fine.”
Signed to the roster this week, quarterback Josh Johnson and defensive tackle Angelo Blackson were also present and working on Wednesday.