OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Lamar Jackson drove the pass 50 yards in the air and placed it in a tight window along the sideline to Sammy Watkins, who was running stride for stride with Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
This was Jackson’s best pass of the offseason in what became his best practice of the spring. It was a near-perfect way to wrap up the Baltimore Ravens’ minicamp and begin a five-week break before the start of training camp.
Before you start talking about a month-long summer vacation, Jackson has other plans.
“It’s really not the offseason anymore,” Jackson said. "For us, I’ll say, we’ve just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can’t go backwards right now, because we already had our fun and did whatever we did during the regular offseason. Not this time; it’s straight go-mode right now. The season is here.”
Overall, it was an uneven offseason for Jackson. In the practices open to the media this spring, he was on-target in the red zone and up-and-down beyond that. Some deep throws wobbled and others were picked off or overthrown.
Jackson knows there's plenty of work to get done to become a consistent passer. He expects to get together with his receivers in Florida during time leading up to training camp. He didn’t address whether he’ll work with a personal quarterback coach, which is something he’s done in the past.
What’s fueling him heading into this season is how his past years ended. Jackson didn’t win in the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, and he lost in the divisional round in Buffalo five months ago.
“We fell short three years in a row since I’ve been here,” Jackson said. "And I’m always seeing teams, when they get [to the Super Bowl], it’s hard work, preparation.”
To get to the top, Jackson and the Ravens need to go over the top more. Jackson said a big focus this offseason is on improving the deep passing game.
Last year, the Ravens had 17 completions on throws of 20 yards or longer. Only four teams -- the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans -- had fewer.
"People are always saying we throw short, intermediate routes and stuff like that – little 5-yard, 10-yard routes,” Jackson said. "But we had some chances last year. We hit some of them, but we’re just trying to be more consistent this year, and that’s where the strides happen. It starts in practice, and hopefully it transitions to the game. We’ve just got to keep working on it.”
If defenses are going to stack the box to stop the NFL’s top rushing team, Jackson and Baltimore have to figure out a way to make them pay repeatedly. Jackson connected on 37.8% of passes longer than 20 yards (17-of-45) last season, which ranked 24th in the NFL.
"I think we’ll have a lot of favorable looks, and we got to be ready to take advantage of them,” Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “Our goal is to win, and if teams are giving us opportunities to throw the ball deep, it’s upon us to work hard and figure that out and really take advantage of that because those are game-changing plays.”
Jackson believes the key to boosting his consistency on deep throws is more about his feet than his arm.
“That’s a big emphasis for me -- just working on my footwork, making sure I stay open so the ball can drive, so I can put a little tight spiral on the ball,” Jackson said.
Heading into training camp, the more pressing question is whether Jackson will get a new deal by the time he returns. Jackson, who is signed through 2022, has been in talks with the team about a contract extension.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Jackson won’t get distracted if the sides are unable to hammer out a long-term deal by the start of the regular season.
"Look what he’s done -- he’s going to get paid. He knows that,” Harbaugh said. "The question becomes, what’s he going to do? What’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That’s what he’s focused on. That’s what’s so great about it. The other thing is a done deal.”
Jackson, whose $1.771 million salary ranks 400th among all players this year, said his contract is a non-issue.
“I'm not going to lie to you; I’m not really focused on that right now,” Jackson said. "I’m focused on getting better. I’m focused on working with my teammates right now. I’m focused on winning right now. I’m trying to bring a Super Bowl here.”