Does Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson finally have all the tools at his disposal to return to his MVP form? The buzz surrounding the Ravens heading into the 2023 season is their revamped and rejuvenated skill position group. They burned a first-round pick on Boston College speedster Zay Flowers and inked star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a contract. Health has also been a storyline surrounding Baltimore this offseason, with not just Lamar looking 100% but the offensive line heading into Week 1 at full force. So if the Ravens signal caller can’t win this season, what does that do for his legacy as one of the NFL’s most electric quarterbacks?
Is Lamar Jackson still elite?
Regardless of how Lamar Jackson’s career concludes, he will always have a place in history as the first Baltimore Ravens player to win the Most Valuable Player Award. Jackson was a human highlight reel in 2019, running for the most yards in a season by a quarterback, 1,206. He also found paydirt seven times as a rusher. Arguably more impressive was how downright deadly he was as a passer. Jackson threw for 3,127 yards while leading the league with 36 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. He did all this while holding a spectacular 83.0 QBR. However, 2019 is now three full seasons behind us, and what does Jackson have to show for it since?
Lamar Jackson could not duplicate his MVP season in 2020, but he still had a borderline elite season compared to his peer’s standards. The Louisville product threw 26 touchdowns against nine picks and ran for 1,005 yards and seven scores. However, the following two seasons have been mediocre at best. His numbers from 2021-2022 illustrate a quarterback that has struggled to recapture his MVP form. Across the last two seasons, he has thrown 33 touchdowns and 20 picks with an accumulative 88.9 quarterback rating.
His rushing numbers remain impressive, especially from an efficiency standpoint, but what made Jackson so deadly before was how effective he could be as a passer and a runner. Jackson has been closer to Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill than Joe Burrow and Josh Allen since the start of the 2021 season. That’s not a knock on those other QBs but more of an indication of how Jackson has played throughout the past two seasons.
The past two years have been injury-riddled for the former MVP. He has played 12 games each season while drastically regressing as a passer. Touchdown percentage, completion percentage, and QBR have all continued to regress since he was the NFL’s unquestioned best player in 2019. Unlike 2020, he has been closer to a middle-of-the-pack quarterback than an elite one. So, when does the narrative change on Jackson as an elite quarterback in TODAY’s NFL? Undoubtedly, he was elite, but how long does the elite tab stay with a player when the most recent results are anything but?
Lamar Jackson’s recent struggles and outlook for the 2023 season
The narrative surrounding Lamar Jackson’s recent struggles has been his suspect group of pass catchers and an antiquated offensive coordinator. Despite having one of the best tight ends in football in the form of Mark Andrews, Lamar Jackson’s truthers have pointed at his young, inexperienced, and “poor” receiving core as a reason for his regression.
Now that the Ravens have bolstered their receiver room with Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr., Jackson should be ready to return to his MVP ways. But remember that when Lamar was at his peak, his best option in the passing game was Mark Andrews, who has been with the Ravens since going in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was also under scrutiny from Ravens fans for his reliance on the running game and handicapping the passing attack. It is worth mentioning that Roman was the OC in the years Jackson was one of the best signal callers in football. The Ravens now employ Todd Monken, the former offensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs. The reports early in training camp and throughout the preseason are that Monken will unlock the Ravens’ passing attack and put complete faith in Lamar Jackson as both a rusher and a thrower.
Expectations for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in 2023
Throughout his tenure as a Raven, Lamar Jackson has a relatively uninspiring receiving core compared to the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Outside Patrick Mahomes, who could win with Andy Reid as his WR1, Jackson has yet to have the luxuries as some of his peers. The Bills’ Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, and Jalen Hurts has DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown. However, Jackson now has an elite tight end and a bolstered receiving core with a new OC. He is also healthy and with a new contract heading into the 2023 season. So, is anything short of a playoff birth in the tough AFC North a disappointment?
Absolutely. Jackson has shown to be an MVP-caliber quarterback, and if he can’t get back to that production, the season should feel like a lost cause, especially with his new megadeal in place. If Cincinnati expects to make the playoffs at a minimum with Joe Burrow, the same should be the expectation with the Ravens and Lamar Jackson. His playoff numbers, most notably his 68.3 rating and just four touchdowns in four games, are still a complete eyesore, but Lamar Jackson just returning to some form of his old self will be a welcome site for all NFL fans, especially those that back the Purple and Black.