Lamar Jackson, Ravens placing 'a big emphasis' on improving deep ball in 2021

As Lamar Jackson's star has risen, the critiques once attached to his game have gradually dissipated.

One knock the former MVP has yet to shed, however, is his ability to consistently hit downfield targets.

During his last media session of mandatory minicamp, Jackson discussed how important it is to him and his teammates that strides are made toward improving the deep passing game.

"We've been working, not just me, all the QBs and receivers, we've been getting together and trying to make that a big emphasis for us this year," he said. "People always saying we throw short, intermediate routes and stuff like that, little 5-yard, 10-yard routes. We had some chances last year, we hit some of 'em but we're just trying to be more consistent this year. That's where the strides happen, it starts in practice and hopefully it transitions to the game. Just gotta keep working on it."

Since taking over as the full-time starter in 2019, Jackson has proven more often than not that he can win games with a steady dose of his legs and success in the intermediate passing game. Unfortunately for Jackson and Co., teams are becoming more privy to the Ravens' game plan, hence making it harder for him to play his style.

Objectively speaking, Jackson hasn't really had any reliable options, outside of the 5-foot-9 Marquise Brown, to throw deep to. His MVP campaign saw Jackson complete 17 of his 50 pass attempts of 20-plus yards for 584 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing two interceptions. In 2020, he went 16-of-46 on such throws for 539 yards and five TDs to go with three picks.

The additions of Sammy Watkins, who Jackson is reportedly showing some nice chemistry with already, and rookie Rashod Bateman to go with Brown should lead to some timely improvements in the QB's game as a new contract looms.

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday that the Ravens consider Jackson's extension priority No. 1 and are aiming to get it done prior to training camp before moving on to several other orders of business.

Until then, reports of the pending monster deal will keep hovering over the organization. When asked about the negotiations Wednesday afternoon, coach John Harbaugh said that he believes the star will "absolutely not" be affected by the ongoing talks.

"Look what he's done. He's gonna get paid. He knows that," Harbaugh said. "The question becomes, 'What's he gonna do?' 'What's his legacy gonna be as a quarterback?' That's what he focuses on, that's what's so great about him. The other thing is a done deal."

Having already locked the "franchise QB" label down, Jackson echoed Harbaugh's sentiments, making it clear that he's not going to let the money get in the way of his preparation.

"You know, I ain't gonna lie to you, I'm not really focused on that right now," he said of his contract situation. "I'm focused on getting me a Super Bowl, focused on getting better, focused on working with my teammates right now. Whatever was put out there, that's what it is, you know? Like I said before, I'm focused on winning right now, trying to bring me a Super Bowl here."

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