After one of the best wins of his 2022 season, quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked about one of his worst throws. It was Week 5, and Jackson had just led the Ravens on a game-winning drive on “Sunday Night Football.” At his postgame news conference, he’d praised kicker Justin Tucker, who’d nailed the go-ahead field goal as time expired, and the defense, which had bottled up the Cincinnati Bengals’ high-flying passing attack.
But, at the mention of wide receiver Tylan Wallace, Jackson’s posture changed. He leaned forward, elbows on the lectern. “Oh, my God,” he said, before appearing to mutter an obscenity to himself. Early in the third quarter, Jackson had overthrown Wallace, running wide open down the right sideline, on a fourth-and-3 call with the game tied.
“I should’ve gave a little bit more air on the pass,” Jackson said. “There were, like, two guys in front of me, and I just saw him wide open. I just tried to shoot it … but I should’ve gave the ball a little bit more air. But we won the game, so I’m good.”
The night highlighted one of Jackson’s biggest limitations — and also why it has been only so limiting. He went 1-for-5 on deep passes in that 19-17 win over Cincinnati, missing two would-be touchdowns and throwing an interception on another downfield attempt. He also led the Ravens with 58 rushing yards and helped engineer scoring drives on five of the team’s nine meaningful possessions.
As the Ravens overhaul their offense this offseason with new coordinator Todd Monken, new quarterbacks coach Tee Martin and a restocked receiving corps, Jackson’s new help will go only so far. An explosive attack requires home run hitters, and Jackson has had one of the NFL’s worst whiff rates on deep shots. His accuracy on passes of at least 20 air yards has fallen each of the past two years, according to Sports Info Solutions. A review of his deep passes last season by The Baltimore Banner found that he went 15-for-45 (33.3%), excluding Hail Mary attempts and throwaways.
Maybe most concerning was how few gave Jackson’s target a chance. His long ball in Week 5 was so overthrown Wallace couldn’t even dive for it. That was the case more often than not last season. Among the 34 quarterbacks who attempted at least 25 deep passes in 2022, according to SIS, Jackson finished last in catchable rate (41%) and third to last in on-target rate (35.9%), by far the worst marks of his career as a full-time starter.
|Season||Catchable rate (NFL rank)||On-target rate (NFL rank)|
|2019||52.3% (25th)||38.6% (28th)|
|2020||60.5% (20th)||58.1% (11th)|
|2021||61.2% (17th)||49% (23rd)|
|2022||41% (34th)||35.9% (32nd)|
Jackson was not solely to blame. There were questionable personnel groupings and play calls from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. There were misplayed passes. There were breakdowns in pass protection. There was a lot of good defense. But too often an inaccurate throw or poor read was the offense’s undoing. The Banner’s review assigned blame to Jackson on 13 of his 30 misfires on deep passes. The opposing defense and Jackson’s supporting cast, meanwhile, were responsible for 11 and six play failures, respectively.
To see where Jackson’s downfield passing went right and wrong last season, here’s how all 45 attempts unfolded, from week to week.
Week 1: at Jets
No. 1: Incompletion (supporting cast to blame). A tough play call on third-and-long. Jackson does himself no favors by starting to bail early from a clean pocket; with more patience, he might’ve been in position to hit wide receiver Rashod Bateman over the top once he cleared the secondary’s back line. Ultimately, though, Roman sends just three receivers on threatening routes against a seven-man coverage shell. It’s not a fair fight.
No. 2: Incompletion (defense). Jackson holds the center-field safety with his eyes before throwing a well-placed floater to tight end Mark Andrews. If anyone but cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is in coverage here, the Ravens probably score.
No. 3: Touchdown. A great third-down throw. A great catch by wide receiver Devin Duvernay. A great first touchdown of the 2022 season.
No. 4: Incompletion (Jackson). The Jets don’t give away anything easily — until tight end Isaiah Likely’s defender falls down in coverage. Jackson misses him, and a potential first down, as he locks in on Andrews, tightly covered in the same ZIP code.
No. 5: Touchdown. Jackson could’ve scrambled on third-and-long. Instead, he spots Duvernay, coming open on a crossing route and hits him in stride with an end-zone dart.
No. 6: Touchdown. A busted coverage leads to an almost effortless 55-yard bomb from Jackson to Bateman.
No. 7: Interception (Jackson). Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson gets a half-step on cornerback D.J. Reed, but Jackson’s go-ball on third down is underthrown. Reed doesn’t even need to get into top gear to catch up to the ball and pluck it away from Robinson.
Week 2: vs. Dolphins
No. 8: Completion. Roman overloads the strong side with four eligible receivers, and the Dolphins are so concerned with Andrews that they leave Likely wide open. Jackson sees it right away and connects easily.
No. 9: Completion. A dime from Jackson, who moves off his first two reads, climbs the pocket and nails Duvernay on a dig route.
No. 10: Incompletion (supporting cast). After left tackle Patrick Mekari is late off the snap, forcing Jackson out of the pocket on third-and-long, Likely watches a slightly overthrown pass sail through his hands.
No. 11: Incompletion (Jackson). Jackson does everything right presnap against a Cover 0 look on third-and-long, motioning over Likely to add an extra blocker without losing Likely’s defender in coverage. But Jackson drops too far back in the pocket and, feeling outside pressure, sets up to throw quickly with less-than-ideal footwork. Likely and Andrews both win on double moves, but Jackson’s pass arrives far out of reach.
Week 3: at Patriots
No. 12: Incompletion (defense). Another third-and-long on which the Ravens are more concerned with their pass protection than their receiving options. Duvernay gets open for a split second over the middle, but Jackson’s operating from a messy pocket. He has to settle for an off-balance, improvised throw to Andrews.
No. 13: Interception (defense). Probably not the best strategy to sidearm a deep throw to Bateman over the middle from a relatively clean pocket. But cornerback Jonathan Jones does well to read Jackson’s eyes, even as he’s covering Duvernay out wide. More times than not, a third-and-long throw like that ends up falling incomplete.
No. 14: Touchdown. This time, Jackson takes advantage of a Cover 0 look. With the Patriots sending more pass rushers than the Ravens have blockers, he buys enough time for Andrews to get his defender’s back turned, then throws a jump ball he knows Andrews can win.
No. 15: Incompletion (supporting cast). Could Jackson’s throw to Bateman have been better? Of course. But it was catchable.
No. 16: Completion. Sure, the play ends in disaster after a fumble by Bateman. But at least he gives Jackson a nice target downfield after the initial play design busts.
No. 17: Incompletion (defense). Jones’ sticky coverage disrupts not only Andrews’ route but tight end Josh Oliver’s as well. This time, Jackson can’t throw Andrews a catchable jump ball.
Week 4: at Bills
No. 18: Incompletion (defense). Outside linebacker Von Miller’s quick win against right tackle Morgan Moses puts Jackson in a bit of a pressure cooker. He has enough time to line up a throw, but defensive tackle DaQuan Jones gets in his airspace, too. Jackson ultimately doesn’t give the wide-open Andrews a chance, sending a pass a few yards over his head.
No. 19: Completion. A truly wild play. A quick description doesn’t do it justice.
Week 5: vs. Bengals
No. 20: Completion. The Ravens’ pass protection holds up against an aggressive zone blitz, and Jackson finds Duvernay as he finds a lane between Cincinnati’s linebackers and back line.
No. 21: Interception (Jackson). Jackson winds up to throw just as Robinson is bending his out-breaking route back toward the sideline, so perhaps the angle of his break ultimately comes as a surprise. Jackson throws the ball as if he’s expecting a more vertical push from Robinson, who instead flattens his route and watches Jackson’s pass fly into the grasp of safety Vonn Bell. Considering Bell’s depth at the time of Jackson’s release, a shallower throw would’ve been a safer one.
No. 22: Incompletion (Jackson). Duvernay runs by Bell on a go route, and there’s no one deep to stop him. Despite the huge margin of error he’s afforded, Jackson overshoots Duvernay.
No. 23: Incompletion (Jackson). A strange play design on fourth-and-3, but the Ravens should’ve had a first down or a touchdown here. Jackson turns down a throw to Andrews in the flat to try for the home run pass to Wallace. Wallace slows down just as Jackson is winding up, maybe messing with Jackson’s read of where to put the ball, but this is a rope. A higher-arcing pass might not have produced a touchdown, but it likely would’ve kept the drive alive.
No. 24: Incompletion (defense). Good coverage downfield and a quick interior pressure from defensive tackle B.J. Hill leave this play with little chance of a big gain.
Week 6: at Giants
No. 25: Incompletion (defense). Jackson almost makes an incredible jump throw in the face of pocket pressure, but cornerback Adoree’ Jackson gets his hand on the pass to Duvernay for the deflection.
No. 26: Incompletion (Jackson). By taking a snap at the Giants’ 32-yard line and drifting all the back to the 44, Jackson makes this too easy for outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. When Robinson breaks open on a double move, Jackson can already feel Thibodeaux bearing down on him. He makes his escape and has to settle for a 50-50 ball downfield to Robinson.
No. 27: Incompletion (Jackson). Another golden one-on-one opportunity, this time with Andrews speeding by safety Dane Belton. Another overthrow.
No. 28: Incompletion (Jackson). Against two-high looks, splitting the safety and cornerback with a “hole shot” is one of the toughest throws to make. But, again, Duvernay can only watch as Jackson airmails his throw.
Week 7: vs. Browns
No. 29: Completion. Jackson makes it look easy here. Against a single-high look, he knows that as soon as Duvernay gets even with cornerback Martin Emerson, there’s nothing stopping him from separating. Jackson puts it where only Duvernay can get it.
Week 8: at Buccaneers
No. 30: Incompletion (defense). Jackson does well to keep this play alive, and James Proche II gets a sliver of space over the middle as things break down. But throwing a ball 30 yards through the air across your body? That’s a tough ask for any quarterback.
No. 31: Incompletion (defense). A back-shoulder throw to Bateman might’ve given Jackson better odds, but Zyon McCollum is a big cornerback (6 feet, 4 inches, 200 pounds). Bateman’s release at the line of scrimmage doesn’t buy him the space he needs to win downfield, either.
No. 32: Incompletion (Jackson). Jackson can’t be blamed for overthrowing Duvernay in the back of the end zone; that’s a high-difficulty throw. But with the offensive line giving Jackson all day to throw, he homes in on the middle of the field, where Tampa Bay has a numerical advantage. Out wide, the Buccaneers have two defenders for two Ravens targets, with Likely unmarked in the flat. Jackson never looks his way.
Week 9: at Saints
No. 33: Touchdown. Just how the Ravens drew it up. Likely gets open thanks to the run fake, but Jackson’s quicker windup suggests this throw isn’t as easy or normal as it looks.
No. 34: Incompletion (Jackson). Another would-be hole shot. This time, Jackson’s hesitation to throw after he gets to the end of his drop costs him. Robinson, settling in between the cornerback and safety, has to come to a complete stop to make a play on the ball, which ends up behind him anyway.
No. 35: Incompletion (supporting cast). Jackson almost makes something out of nothing here, turning a bouncing ball into a near-touchdown. But Moses’ pass-blocking whiff and wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s decision not to jump for a jump ball are too much to overcome.
No. 36: Incompletion (defense). With two vertical routes well covered, Jackson’s best look here is Likely. But cornerback Alontae Taylor undercuts the crossing route, forcing Jackson to attempt a difficult touch pass.
No. 37: Incompletion (Jackson). Jackson has Likely open for a potential first down over the middle. Instead, he aims for Robinson, about 15 yards behind him. The pass explodes out of Jackson’s hands, leading Robinson to the back of the end zone, instead of the middle, where there’s more space. It flies just out of reach.
Week 11: vs. Panthers
No. 38: Completion. A great route by Robinson leads to a great sideline throw by Jackson.
Week 12: at Jaguars
No. 39: Completion. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Andrews settles into a soft spot in the Jaguars’ zone coverage. Jackson doesn’t take long to find him.
No. 40: Incompletion (Jackson). With Andrews’ crossing route grabbing the defense’s attention on the very next play, Robinson streaks open as he heads the other way. Jackson overthrows him.
No. 41: Incompletion (defense). Feeling the interior pressure, Jackson looks for Andrews. But it’s a tight squeeze in double coverage and Jackson’s pass flies overhead.
No. 42: Completion. Yet another play where Andrews’ presence stresses out the defense. This time, Jacksonville ignores Likely as he runs a corner route. Jackson doesn’t, hitting him in stride for a big gain.
No. 43: Incompletion (supporting cast). Jackson’s pass to Andrews down the sideline is on the money, but the ball glances off his left hand. Outside linebacker Arden Key gets away with a well-timed tug on Andrews’ right hand, but there’s no attempt to draw a flag or petition the nearby official.
No. 44: Incompletion (supporting cast). Jackson and Duvernay end up on different pages of the playbook here. Jackson throws as if he’s expecting Duvernay to run a deep post. Duvernay instead heads for the corner — the same kind of route Andrews is running not far behind him.
No. 45: Completion. The last deep throw of Jackson’s season is also maybe the best. His bomb to DeSean Jackson travels 63.2 yards in the air, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, and arrives with military precision. If Jackson had kept running after the catch, their 62-yard connection might’ve been an 85-yard score.