Ravens' Jackson wants doubters to eat words

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Coming off a strong training camp practice Friday, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a message for the doubters.

"It motivates me a lot," Jackson said. "Make them eat their words, that's all."

Last year, as a rookie first-round pick, Jackson took over for the injured Joe Flacco around midseason and led Baltimore to its first AFC North title in six years, becoming the youngest quarterback (at 21) ever to start an NFL playoff game.

But Jackson went 6-1 as a starter more on the strength of his legs than his arm. In his seven starts, he finished 30th in completion rate (58%) and 31st in off-target percentage (23%).

Jackson believes he has made strides this offseason as a passer.

"You guys saw me last year. I was horrible. A lot of ducks," Jackson said. "It's been better. A lot of tight spirals."

On the first day of training camp Thursday, Jackson struggled early and fluttered some passes deep downfield, showing his frustration after some other off-target passes by shaking his head. He had a much more solid outing Friday, connecting on a higher rate of passes and hitting Nick Boyle 20 yards down the middle of the field for his best throw of the summer.

Safety Earl Thomas said Jackson has been "throwing dimes" and noted that he hasn't gotten his hands on one of Jackson's passes yet. His biggest concern with Jackson doesn't involve his accuracy or throwing mechanics.

"My thing with him is I don't want to get caught up in, 'You got to be a pocket passer, you got to be this,'" Thomas said. "No, Lamar, you be who you are. Be special. If you have to take off, take off. Make the defense work."

Jackson has always been in the spotlight. He became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy and is the only player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and pass for at least 3,500 yards in consecutive seasons.

Coach John Harbaugh is amazed by Jackson's demeanor and personality for a young player facing so much pressure.

"I look back at being 22 years old, and I could have only hoped to have Lamar Jackson's poise and balance," Harbaugh said. "He is who he is. He doesn't get flustered. He doesn't get fazed. It's never too big for him. I'm kind of blown away by that part of him."

Besides the improvements in his passing, Jackson has made strides in the execution of the offense. Last year, he needed coaches to repeat the playcall, and the play clock often would run out. So far this year, the offense is moving at a crisper pace with Jackson.

There's also a noticeable difference in how Jackson looks. He added 7 to 10 pounds "of muscle, not fat" to help him withstand more hits.

"Trying to compete at a high level, put some more meat on my bones. I was hurt. I was skinny," Jackson said. "Those guys are big out there. The league is totally different. Grown men trying to feed their families, 300-pounders coming at you, running 4.5."

Quarterbacks coach James Urban sees a chip on Jackson's shoulder, but he believes that most great players carry that.

"I think as much as anything, he wants to prove [Ravens owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, Ozzie [Newsome, former GM], Eric [DeCosta, current GM], Coach Harbs and the Baltimore Ravens right rather than prove everyone else wrong," Urban said.