— NFL (@NFL) May 24, 2019
The Baltimore Ravens made a statement by putting the future of their franchise in the hands of Lamar Jackson. The quarterback was selected in the first round of the 2018 Draft out of the Louisville Cardinals, having impressed greatly during his college career, winning the Heisman Trophy.
Joe Flacco’s injury woes opened up a path for the 22-year-old to start for John Harbaugh’s men. The club’s offense had stagnated with Flacco at quarterback even before he suffered a hip injury, resulting in Baltimore’s underwhelming start to the 2018 campaign. Jackson’s arrival into the starter’s position culminated in a change of approach from offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
It proved to be a successful formula for the Ravens, who surged towards the playoffs after winning six out of their last seven games of the regular term. The post-season was a step too far for Jackson and company in his rookie term as the Los Angeles Chargers stymied his running ability from the backfield. However, there was more than enough encouragement for the Ravens to build around the 22-year-old, prompting the decision to trade away Flacco to the Denver Broncos.
— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) February 13, 2019
Baltimore have since moved to surround Jackson with talent, selecting Marquise Brown in the first round of the 2019 Draft. Brown was a standout alongside Kyler Murray for the Oklahoma Sooners in the college game last season, although he previously starred with quarterback Baker Mayfield – now of the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens can take heed from the Sooners, who are constantly having to remold their offense given the exodus of key players to the NFL, including Mayfield, Murray and Brown in the last three years. However, Oklahoma remain one of the leading contenders in the American football odds to win the National Championship for the 2019 season.
Harbaugh’s men have taken the plunge to adapt to the improvised style of offense, which has been heralded in the college ranks. They now need to keep faith with the system to carry themselves forward into the AFC playoff picture. Baltimore have not been competitive at the top of the conference since their triumph in Super Bowl XLVII when Flacco produced an incredible run of form to guide his team to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Flacco’s inability to take the next step in his development resulted in a six-year period of mediocrity before the drafting of Jackson, and his impact handed the franchise a light at the end of the tunnel.
Roman and his staff on offense were outstanding in aiding the development of Jackson. The 22-year-old now needs to learn from his experiences in his rookie term, while developing his arm downfield. He was robbed of a talented wideout to help his cause, particularly in the playoff defeat to the Chargers. Brown will be a crucial piece to the puzzle in Baltimore, providing the speed to open up opposing defenses in a manner similar to Tyreek Hill has performed for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The running game will be the foundation of a surge following the signing of Mark Ingram, while Justice Hill will also support the incumbent starter, Gus Edwards. There are promising signs for the future of the Ravens, who have taken their time to adapt to the offensive-centric nature of the NFL. Harbaugh and company have made the gamble, but it could be a decision that pays dividends in the near future.