Four games into the Ravens’ season, quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn’t had to sweat the small stuff. It’s the bigger throws that have cost him.
On short passes — balls with a target depth of 0 to 9 yards — Jackson has been more accurate (83 percent) this season than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On intermediate throws — anything between 10 and 19 air yards — he’s been more accurate (68.2 percent) than Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, another NFL Most Valuable Player candidate.
Beyond that, Jackson has struggled. According to Sports Info Solutions, Jackson is just 5-for-16 (31.3 percent) on throws of 20 air yards or more. Rodgers, meanwhile, is 13-for-27; Wilson is 9-for 14.
“I see it as a work in progress,” Jackson said in a video conference call Wednesday. He missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury, then missed practice Thursday due to his knee and also an illness. “I’m getting better every week — not just myself but my team. And no, I’m not happy because those passes, I would like to connect with my guys on those passes. I feel like there’s a lot of yards and touchdowns we’ve been leaving on the field when we don’t connect. So that’s probably why our passing’s not where it’s supposed to be. But I feel it’s still early in the season. We’ve got 12 more regular-season games, and I feel we’re good.”
Jackson’s deep-ball accuracy has improved slightly from last year, when he finished 16-for-46 (30.4 percent) on such throws, according to SIS. But he’d made downfield passing an offseason focus, and with the return to form of wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and arrival of Texas speedster Devin Duvernay, the Ravens’ aerial attack was expected to be more dynamic in 2020.
Instead, after ranking 27th in the NFL in passing (201.6 yards per game) last season, the Ravens have fallen to No. 31 overall (180.8 per game). According to Football Outsiders, their passing efficiency has fallen from No. 1 overall to No. 17 despite Jackson’s improved overall accuracy (66.1 percent to 68.4 percent).
“We’re just going to try to do the best we can, be the best team we can be, work on all the different things we can work on, which is everything,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There’s plenty of things in the passing game, in the running game, that we can work on. .... So you try to work on all those things all the time and try to improve as best you can. You understand what the issues are. We study them very closely. We know what they are. It’s not something I really want to broadcast.”
Brown has been Jackson’s top target this season, and he leads the Ravens with 16 catches for 242 yards entering a Week 5 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. But Jackson has overthrown him several times over the past two weeks on downfield routes. He said the attack must “keep working.”
“It’s only four games in,” he said. “We’re still learning. We’re still building. Just get better as a whole unit. Like I said, when the opportunity presents itself, we’ve just got to hit. If we hit a couple of passes, people wouldn’t even be questioning some stuff. So we’ll just take our chances and hit them when they come.”