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Can Ravens' offense unlock new levels in 2024? Lamar Jackson could hold the key

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – To build on his second NFL MVP season, the Baltimore Ravens are giving even more agency and responsibility to quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The offensive coaching staff is dialing up the playbook and introducing streamlined tweaks for Jackson in the team's second year playing in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system.

In some ways, Monken said during OTAs, he “went back to the drawing board” to determine who the Ravens were going to be on the offensive side of the ball. The coaches had 19 games of tape to evaluate and a year of experience to consider.

“That is what you do every year, but even more importantly after your first year, because there are always things you look back and go, ‘We put that in. Now that we looked at it, hey, let’s go this direction. Let’s do this. Let’s move in these certain directions we want to go,’” Monken said.

Every offense, Monken said, strives to streamline the plays in a way that yields consistent success. One specific area Monken took issue with after last season was the Ravens’ starts on offense. Yet Baltimore scored nine times, with seven touchdowns and two field goals, on its opening drives in the regular season, while the rest of the league scored at a 38.8% rate. The Ravens also ranked third in first-quarter scoring (6.1 points per game).

Still, Monken sees room for improvement.

“We have to work to start faster,” Monken said. “That’s inevitable, but Year 2, we should be able to do that.”

Last year, quarterbacks coach Tee Martin said, was about focusing on the technical aspect of the game: new obligations, responsibilities, progressions, schemes. The Ravens split their offseason self-scout of Jackson into two categories. One focused on his passing: technique and reads. The other one revolved around his impact on the run game. The overall theme was pushing him further in both “and give him more responsibilities within the offense,” Martin said.

Soliciting feedback from Jackson and installing more of what he prefers has been another part of the offseason process.

“We’re off to a good start,” Martin said, "(I'm) looking forward to training camp to really get to the identity that we want to have before the first game.”

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after running past for Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter in an AFC divisional-round game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after running past for Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter in an AFC divisional-round game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens signed running back Derrick Henry to a two-year contract this offseason, but wideout Odell Beckham Jr. did not return. Three starters on the offensive line departed. Tight end Mark Andrews should be back to full health after missing significant time last season with an ankle injury, and his backup Isaiah Likely emerged as a viable option in the passing game. Quickly forming a bond with Jackson, receiver Zay Flowers had a 1,000-yard rookie campaign, and Monken expects an increased role for former first-round pick Rashod Bateman, who has battled injuries but has strung together an offseason that impressed the staff. The Ravens brought back veteran Nelson Agholor and selected Devontez Walker in the fourth round of the draft to add another receiver to the mix.

“I believe our offense is taking steps in the right direction right now,” Jackson said Wednesday. “We can't really ... We don't really know who the guys are going to be right now. We're not in camp. We're not close to the first game or anything like that.”

Jackson completed a career-best 67.2% of his passes last year with 24 passing touchdowns. He added five touchdowns – and 821 yards – on the ground.

Top-seeded Baltimore lost to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game. The Ravens scored a touchdown in the first quarter but managed three points the remainder of the contest.

Thanks to Jackson’s football and functional intelligence, Martin said, taking adjustments from the classroom to the practice field is no problem for the quarterback.

“He’s not a high-rep guy, so he can do things once or twice and show up in the game and execute it,” Martin said.

Wednesday’s minicamp practice was the best example of Jackson having the freedom to execute the way he wants to, Martin said, with positive gains coming after he changed things up.

“He’s accepted it and done a heck of a job of getting us into the right play,” Martin said.

With players like Jackson, who can pick things up with such ease, “you have to continue to push them to, number one, keep them interested,” Martin said.

“It’s like that smart kid in the classroom. You can’t allow them to get bored, right?” Martin said. “He’s like that. You have to constantly add things, tweaks and things of that nature – and responsibilities.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lamar Jackson, Ravens offense could hit new gear in 2024 season