Ravens’ offense to evolve with Lamar, new weapons
Lamar Jackson’s PCL injury was fully healed a month ago, which leads Mike Florio and Peter King unpack how the Ravens must adjust their offense to keep the QB healthy.
- Another reason not to make that gigantic investment, a point that you've made a couple of times today, and a common theme as we migrated through the weeks of free agency before the deal got done, HIS health, his injury history. Where does his health currently stand? Here's the question he was asked, AND the answer he provided on Thursday.
- Are you fully medically cleared?
LAMAR JACKSON: Yeah. I passed.
- So everything's fine with your knee?
LAMAR JACKSON: I'm great, yeah.
- When were you fully recovered from a knee injury, and how much did it bother you there was so much outside chatter, how healthy you were, could you play, was it contract-related? I mean, how much of that bothered you?
LAMAR JACKSON: It probably got better, like, probably a month ago for real, like a month ago, and it really didn't bother me because they don't-- people don't know what's really going on. They be trying to reach and pull and try to see if the club would say it or would I come out and say it, stuff like that. But we're keeping it in-house. It's not anyone's business but ours.
- Yeah. That knee injury that popped up early December, his two injuries too happening in the pocket. That's part of the balance that the Ravens are going to strike. We'll talk about how the offense may change moving forward, but you just have to reduce the total hits. You got to protect him, maybe take out some of the designed runs, limit the opportunities for him to get hit again. And to suffer another injury, there's a greater incentive to do it now that he has that contract.
Here's the play from late 2021 rolling out of the pocket, hit legally, hit low. The protection against hits at or below the knee evaporates when you go outside of the pocket. That was the one that knocked him out for the balance of that season, and then it was against the Broncos December of 2022 where he suffered a knee injury in the pocket, getting twisted down to the ground.
Here it is early end of the first quarter in that game, December 4 at home against the Broncos. Hit in the pocket as he's moving to the left, and just that knee gets buckled, the PCL injury, all that talk about whether he could have come back, and it was a lot of noise, and I suspect it potentially could have created some hard feelings.
The Ravens handled it well, though. As you said earlier, the Ravens were always very respectful of him. All the leaks were coming from Lamar's camp regarding contract figures, the Ravens never said anything. He is healthy. He moves forward. Like every other player for the most part in the offseason, you're healthy. The question is and the challenge becomes staying that way.
And it's not that he is injury-prone. He's playing the game in a way that makes you potentially prone to injury. I was talking about this to Scott Fitterer, not to do a complete 180 here, but it's tied together. Bryce Young, one of the reasons they're not concerned about Bryce Young, he gets rid of the football and doesn't take those hits. Both of those clips we just showed there was a window to just get rid of the football before you took the hit.
And we know how the NFL is about throwing the flag if you just breathe on the quarterback the wrong way. Get rid of the ball. Don't hold on to it. Don't take the hit. That's part of what they need to coach Lamar to do because every extra hit you take is an opportunity to suffer that injury that knocks you out for the rest of the season, Peter.
- And look, the bottom line in this whole thing is, Mike, when you talk about injuries, they really are unpredictable, but you can't ignore them. If you are Lamar Jackson, you can't ignore the fact that you have gotten hurt twice in a significant way, both times for significant periods of time. So that counts. That matters.
And if you're the Ravens, you have to also understand that-- I think one of the reasons that they went after Todd Monken is that they feel like Todd Monken can be the kind of offensive coordinator that is going to take full advantage of Lamar, the passer. And I think before-- and I think you saw it with the frustration of Hollywood Brown when he got traded, throw the ball to me deep. Why are we not stretching the field? Why don't we do that? And there was a lot of frustration with Greg Roman.
But the Ravens basically said, hey listen, we're the best running team in football. And to be the best running team in football, you have to set your offensive line as a major priority, which they have done, OK? And you also have to set your tight end position as a major priority, which they did. And you don't necessarily set stretching the field as a major priority.
But now, I believe with Rashod Bateman coming back to health, with Odell Beckham Jr. And look, there's no guarantee of anything with Odell Beckham Jr. And with Zay Flowers, I think there's going to be more emphasis on intermediate and deep throws with Todd Monken in his offense than there was in the previous offense.
- One of the arguments I heard from people around the league during that window when Lamar Jackson was available is that one of the realities of bringing in Lamar Jackson you have to completely change your offense to what the Ravens were using, and my response to that always was, wait a minute, wait a minute, just because the Ravens used him a certain way doesn't mean he can't do other things. They just chose the path of least resistance.
Why throw when this guy, who was the best running threat at quarterback for years-- I think it's Justin Fields now-- but when he can just take off, why do you want to introduce the risk of a batted ball, an interception, a sack, whatever into the equation? And what we're seeing is the Ravens are changing the offense.
It speaks volumes when you bring in OBJ, when you use a first round pick on Zay Flowers. What are you trying to do? You're trying to breathe life into the passing game and take advantage of Lamar Jackson's passing skills, which have always been there all the way back to Louisville.
Louisville, he was the ultimate dual-threat quarterback. He could run. He could throw. And the Ravens with Greg Roman locked on to the running side of it, and now I agree with you. With Todd Monken, it is going to expand to the point where, Peter, Lamar Jackson enters the 2023 season with a fairly lofty goal. Let's hear what he aspires to do in the upcoming football campaign.
LAMAR JACKSON: I think I told someone. Like, man, I want to throw for, like, 6,000 yards with the weapons we have. [LAUGHTER] You know, and I'm not an individual award type of guy or a stat-watcher, you know? I just want to do that because no one had ever done it, and I feel like we have the weapons to do it. We got explosive guys. And, like I said, the new additions, Zay, OBJ, and we got Bateman going to be 100% healthy too. We're going to be healthy, you know? So it's going to be-- can't forget about Mark. Can't forget about my boy, Mark and Likely. So I just can't wait to get rolling.
- The question that led to that response focused on the Ravens bringing in three weapons, and I'm thinking three weapons, three weapons? I guess Nelson Agholor was included in that equation. All due respect, separate category from OBJ and Zay Flowers, but still they've got plenty of pass-catchers out there.
They love what Isaiah Likely can do. Mark Andrews is still great. They have the receivers now. And Peter, I think 6,000 probably unrealistic, but it speaks to what your point is with Todd Monken there. We're going to see a very different Ravens offense, and the rest of the NFL had better be ready for it.
- And I think Mike one of the things when Lamar and the Ravens had kind of their little disagreements. Remember at the Combine where DeCosta said something about the wide receivers that I think Bateman took exception to? I forget exactly what it was, but we got to get somebody to stretch the field, whatever it was.
But I do think that Lamar Jackson was pretty public, or pretty much when he was talking to the Ravens, hey listen, we got to get a little bit more in the receiver group. And so, obviously, the Ravens did that this year. And, again, we don't know what Odell Beckham Jr. is going to do. We just don't know because he hasn't done it in four or five years.
But in getting Beckham, in getting Zay Flowers, in having a healthy Rashod Bateman, picking up Agholor as maybe a four or five, I think one of the things that we're seeing is the fact that they're now building this team. I think they built this team to run and throw to the tight end. But the way that they have adjusted this team this year is to add a real element of threat at the wide receiver position, which really has not been there since Lamar Jackson has been the quarterback.
- Yeah. And again, he's got the ability to do it. We've seen it before, and we're going to see it again. We're going to see it throughout the 2023 season as they pivot to this adjusted offense. You know, it is amazing to me. John Harbaugh has been there forever. 2008 was his first year.
His offensive coordinator has been Camp Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, Marc Trestman, Marty Mornhinweg, Greg Roman, and now Todd Monken. A lot of different guys running the offense, and I think this one is going to be very different from the one that we saw last year and the prior years with Lamar Jackson as the starting quarterback.