OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson made it look easy during his MVP season, leading the NFL in touchdown passes and setting the league mark for most rushing yards by a quarterback.
Jackson has dealt with more struggles in his first eight weeks of this season, ranking 27th in passing yards (1,343) and 30th in completion rate (60.5%). He committed a career-worst four turnovers In Sunday’s 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How has Jackson handled the adversity?
“He still has a lot to learn, but the great thing about Lamar is he recognizes that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “He understands that people are making him the focus. He has got to find a way to tighten up his game and beat those things with precision and accuracy and his mind. They’re doing everything they can with a lot of smart and talented people to stop Lamar Jackson the week that they play him.”
Baltimore’s offense has plummeted to No. 22 in total yards, and not all of the Ravens’ problems should fall on Jackson. The offensive line has dealt with injuries all season, and two starters (left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Tyre Phillips) are on injured reserve. The Ravens have nearly dropped as many passes through seven games this season (eight) as all of last season (an NFL-low 10).
“It’s not 11-on-1. It’s 11-on-11,” Harbaugh said. “They can focus 11-on-1 if they want. But there are 10 other guys out there. I think that’s the thing we try to get across to our guys.”
This week, Jackson complimented Bryant for his route running and strong hands. But Bryant, 31, hasn’t played a game since December 2017.
Harbaugh was noncommittal when asked when the Ravens would elevate Bryant off the practice squad.
“When we feel like he’s ready to come up in shape and knows the offense well enough and has enough capability with Lamar on enough plays, then we’ll bring him up,” Harbaugh said. “When it happens, I think it’ll happen. I don’t think it’s something you want to force feed in there. So, we’ll just have to see as we go.”
Harbaugh was more optimistic about the return of a chunk of his defense. On Tuesday, the Ravens placed six defensive players — linebackers Patrick Queen, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison and Tyus Bowser, safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Terrell Bonds — on the reserve/COVID-19 list after they were identified as “high-risk” close contacts to Marlon Humphrey after the All-Pro cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus.
None of the close contacts have exhibited any symptoms, Harbaugh said. If the players pass their testing Saturday morning, they can participate in a walk-through before traveling with the team for Sunday’s game at the Indianapolis Colts (5-2).
“It’s something that you deal with. It’s part of life right now,” Harbaugh said. “Every single person in the country is dealing with these kinds of things in their lives. The cool thing about football is [it’s] a microcosms of life. There are certain rules that are in place, and you do your best to follow them. Sometimes, you fall short.
“I do think the metaphor here with the NFL is kind of a good one in the sense that you do everything you can to keep each other safe from this virus. And yet, you still continue to take on the challenges of life and try to be excellent in the things that you do.”
The Ravens (5-2) have won nine straight road games, but they have never won in Indianapolis, losing all six of their trips there, including playoffs.