What Ravens believe will take Lamar Jackson to the next level

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- At this time last year, Lamar Jackson was about to head to the NFL combine, putting all his energy into convincing teams that he was a viable quarterback prospect.

This year, Jackson's time is being devoted to the work needed to take the next step as a passer in the NFL.

Calling this offseason the first real offseason for Jackson, new Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman declined to provide any details about Jackson's offseason training plan but did reveal the emphasis: throwing mechanics and footwork.

“I think fundamentally is where he’s going need to put most of his work," Roman said in his first news conference since being promoted to offensive coordinator. "I think where to throw the ball and seeing guys open, I think those are things that he naturally has. And I do think that those abilities have allowed him to get to where he’s been. Moving forward, consistent fundamentals are what’s really going to take him to the next level."

Jackson proved he can lead a team to the playoffs. Taking over for an injured Joe Flacco, Jackson went 6-1 as a starter and guided Baltimore to its first AFC North title in six years.

Jackson showed he can be a playmaker. His 695 yards rushing and 11 runs of 15 yards or longer topped all quarterbacks last season.

The greatest unknown about Jackson is whether he'll develop as a passer. In seven regular-season starts, he produced one game with over 200 yards passing and two games in which he completed more than 60 percent of his throws.

Jackson came to the Ravens raw in terms of fundamentals after being the No. 32 overall pick in last year's draft, and he didn't receive much time to develop as a quarterback in practice because Joe Flacco took a majority of the snaps. Quarterbacks coach James Urban would work with Jackson for about a half hour after practice to help him fine-tune the skills needed at that position.

"As far as him throwing the football, we feel great about it," Roman said. "And we saw a lot of improvement last year throughout the season, and really, he's only going to get better from here. I think there's some fundamental things that were exposed to him last year that he's really grabbed hold of, and we saw him improve. Man, the sky is the limit there."

What excites Roman about Jackson's potential in the passing game is that he brings intangibles that can't be taught. Jackson has a great feel for the game and impressed the coaching staff almost immediately with his field vision, which reminded Roman of the vision of another Ravens quarterback.

"He’s not going to be the guy that, ‘Oh man, they dropped coverage on him, and he just didn’t see it,'" Roman said. "I think that is critical, and it’s hard to measure or see. Moving forward, what does that do? That takes the ceiling and moves it up. We know that ceiling is going to be higher. Steve McNair was like that, for example. Steve had an uncanny ability to see guys that might not have been part of the progression as having good leverage. I want to say the second week that he was here last year, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s something Steve would’ve done in practice.’ I feel great about that."

Roman was an assistant on the Ravens' staff in 2006 and 2007 when McNair was the starter in Baltimore. As an offensive coordinator, Roman had plenty of success with athletic quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.

From 2011-14, Kaepernick totaled the 12th-best passer rating over that span (90.6) under Roman. In 2015, Taylor went to his only Pro Bowl, throwing 20 touchdowns and six interceptions with Roman calling the plays.

As far as Roman's impact on Jackson, that won't start for another couple of months. Roman won't get a chance to talk football with Jackson and see his progress until April 15, when Baltimore's offseason workout program begins.

"He's young, but he loves to win and I think he has a great perspective on the NFL and what it takes to be successful," Roman said. "And I do think, like most great players I've been around, he's probably his harshest critic, and that's a beautiful thing. So, I do think that a great plan is there, and we’ll see him in April when he shows up, and I’m sure he’ll have another club in his bag."