OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens expressed some concern about rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson taking too many hits when running with the ball.
“Yeah, that’s not good,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Wednesday. “It’s just that simple.”
Jackson hasn’t slid at any point in his three preseason games. During Monday night’s game in Indianapolis, Jackson lowered his head on one scramble and flipped over a tackler.
After his up-and-down preseason continued in Monday night’s win over the Colts, Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson said he doesn’t feel like he has “performed at a high level yet.”
Mornhinweg has talked to Jackson about sliding when running in between the numbers and running out of bounds when scrambling outside the numbers.
“We’d rather get down a step too early than a step too late,” Mornhinweg said. “As you can see, that’s an ongoing process. Some of it is experience because he needs to have to filter through what he can get away with and what he can’t in this league.”
Jackson has run for 72 yards in the preseason, the second most by any quarterback. Only New Orleans’ Taysom Hill (95 yards) has rushed for more.
At Louisville, Jackson ran for 3,172 yards in his final two seasons, scoring 39 touchdowns. During that span, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner averaged 6.4 yards per rushing attempt.
Asked earlier this month if he focused of not getting hit when running, Jackson said: “No, I was focused on winning the game. I wasn’t really worried about those big hits. It’s going to be delivered. You’re a grown man out here.”
Mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III expose themselves to more hits and have been injured when running. During training camp, Griffin said Jackson will learn when to slide and when to take a risk through experience and some collisions.
“What I try to tell him mostly is that in this league things happen faster,” Griffin said. “It’s not that he can’t run — he just has to be smart when he does run. He’s going to have to learn some things on his own as he’s out there and he’s working. I think he’ll figure it out pretty quickly, and he’ll still be the dynamic player that he is.”
Jackson’s most electric play of the preseason game a week ago, when he faked out two Rams defenders in the open field and scored a 9-yard touchdown.
Quarterbacks coach James Urban said telling a quarterback to limit his runs is “a slippery slope.”
“He hasn’t accomplished what he has because he stands in the pocket,” Urban said. “He has to learn how to throw in the pocket, of course. At some point, to play quarterback in the National Football League, you have to drop back and throw it. We’re getting there, and he’s improving dramatically.
“Great natural ability takes over, you go make your play, and then take the hit off, get what we can, get up and get out, sliding, obviously, and now diving. In the National Football League, there’s protection for the quarterback, so we’re aware of those, and we’ve talked about it. He might take a hit that he shouldn’t, and then he’ll learn.”
Mornhinweg was asked whether Jackson’s elusiveness can make him a red-zone weapon.
“Lamar is dangerous anywhere on the field,” Mornhinweg said. “He’s a unique and uncommon athlete.”