(CBS Baltimore) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson started off the season on fire, completing 17-20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins. To be fair, no one knew then just how bad the Dolphins would be. But also, to be fair, no one knew just how much Jackson had grown in the offseason.
The Ravens QB changed from a thrower (who can run) into a passer (who can still run). He showed that again in Week 2, throwing for 272 yards and two more touchdowns, going 24-37, while also rushing for 120 yards. His speed remains a weapon in his arsenal, but is no longer a crutch for a sub-par passing game.READ MORE: Governor Hogan Celebrates First Greater Baltimore Area Fortune 500 Companies In A Decade
Phil Simms, analyst for Inside The NFL, was surprised by the development. “Overall, I am shocked by how well he is throwing the football compared to what he did last year.” The difference is striking. When Jackson took over starting duties last year from the departed Joe Flacco, he looked raw, even against iffy competition. John Harbaugh and the Ravens coaching game-planned the offense around his capabilities. Jackson’s passing stats, which didn’t exceed 15 passing attempts and only once surpassed 200 yards, reflected that.
But things have changed. Jackson can now lead an offense from the pocket without relying on his legs. “I would never have said that during the offseason or any time,” says Simms, himself a former NFL quarterback. “But, I have watched every throw of Lamar Jackson this season and everything they are doing. If they are going to let him run, then he is going to run. But, he doesn’t look to run.”Firefighter Injured In Two-Alarm Fire In Severn Sunday
His stats have returned to earth since those early games, and Jackson has even struggled at times. The Ravens’ Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs saw him complete just 22 of his 43 attempts in the team’s comeback attempt. Patrick Mahomes, the gold standard among young quarterbacks, completed 27-37 that day, for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
Every quarterback, especially young ones (and lately even Mahomes), is going to have off-days. But Jackson’s growth is readily apparent. “When he wants to throw it, you have to make him run by giving him pressure or just making sure nobody is open,” observed Simms. “He is looking for the open receiver. He has done a really good job of decision making.”
The Ravens lead the AFC North after knocking off two straight division foes. Jackson will face a tougher test this Sunday, when the Ravens travel to CenturyLink Field to face the Seattle Seahawks (5-1).MORE NEWS: Baltimore County Police Are Searching For A Missing Man, Last Seen In Woodlawn
You can catch Phil Simms along with Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin, Brandon Marshall and host James Brown on Inside The NFL every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.