OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens officially concluded training camp Tuesday, marking the last day for fans to attend practice.
Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson made sure to sign an autograph for a young fan who had been knocked down in the mayhem of a group of kids seeking his attention.
“We had a stampede for Lamar here a minute ago,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Nobody got trampled, thank goodness. We’re happy about that.”
Jackson’s rising popularity is not just with fans, but his teammates as well. At 22, he is one of the Ravens’ youngest players, but has garnered his teammates’ following.
A relatively soft-spoken person, Jackson is not an overly demonstrative leader. But in his second training camp and first as the starting quarterback, his confidence in the role is evident. He is quick to take charge of the offense and tell his teammates where they need to be. Jackson is always ready to celebrate with a teammate or console one. He takes time everyday after practice to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans.
“It’s hard to pin-point. The best thing I can say about Lamar that way and why people like him is, you just talk to him. You’ll probably get a feel for it yourself when you talk to him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got that ‘It factor.’ I think he was raised the right way. He had a lot of support, his mom is amazing. It probably starts with that.”
Despite being a first-round draft pick in 2018, Jackson bided his time behind Joe Flacco for more than half the season. He led the Ravens to five wins in their final six games to secure an improbable playoff berth. For anything that went wrong offensively during that stretch, Jackson pointed the finger at himself.
Harbaugh said he expects Jackson to continue to improve as a quarterback. He has the rest of it figured out.
“He doesn’t really need to develop as a leader, he is a natural leader. He’s developing as a quarterback, I think he’s developing as a person, like anybody would,” Harbaugh said. “Guys gravitate toward him. He’s got a very high emotional IQ. He gets people. Just being himself, along with playing really well, it seems that that’s the key to him as a leader. He’s developing really well as a quarterback. You saw it today, he had a big day today. He just gets better everyday.”
Wide receiver Jaleel Scott, a member of Jackson’s draft class, attempted to explain why the entire team seems to be drawn to the quarterback.
“He talks to us and he cheers us on through the ups and downs,” Scott said. “He’s just an understanding guy. When you have a quarterback that’s understanding and he talks to you, you’ll do anything for him.”
Jackson down played it with some humor.
“I’m one of the guys. I hang out. I’m cool, man,” the quarterback said. “I don’t know. Ask them.”
In Year 2, Jackson hopes to take a similar leap as quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff have recently. He said he is “way ahead” of where he was at this time last year.
He better understands the offense, though it is a new one built around his strengths. Jackson said he has spent time alone studying the playbook, and he got together with several teammates away from the team facility prior to the start of training camp.
“Last year, our defense was flying around. My head was spinning. I didn’t know where the guys were coming from, blitzes,” Jackson said. “But this year, I’ve just been sitting back, been a lot [more] comfortable, dialed in.”
Jackson emphasized his mechanics over the offseason, leading to improved accuracy and better ball security. The fumbles that plagued his rookie year have not been a problem in training camp.
Harbaugh said Jackson will play a similar amount Thursday in the Ravens’ second preseason game as he did in the opener, when he led the first-team offense for three series. He completed 4 of 6 passes, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Willie Sean IV on his final attempt of the night.
His goal against the Green Bay Packers is to get another win by playing well enough to call it an early night once again.
“Completions, score a touchdown, hopefully get out of the game early,” Jackson said. “It’s preseason, so I’m trying to get out of the game early.”
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