OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- What's next for Lamar Jackson after his NFL MVP season?
It's not necessarily more passes. It's more throws downfield.
In Thursday's hourlong online question-and-answer session with Baltimore Ravens season-ticket holders, coach John Harbaugh said one of the keys to Jackson's evolution is taking advantage of defenses stacking the box against Baltimore.
"Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it. We absolutely have to make them pay," Harbaugh said. "The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe that's the next step of this offense. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step."
Jackson spearheaded the NFL's highest-scoring offense last season, leading the league with 36 touchdown passes and setting the NFL record for rushing yards for a quarterback with 1,206. He became the second unanimous MVP in NFL history and at age 22 became the youngest quarterback to win the award.
The weakest part of Jackson's game was consistently throwing deep to his wide receivers. On throws that traveled at least 15 yards in the air, Jackson ranked 27th in completions (35) and 22nd in completion rate (43.8%). In the divisional playoff loss to the Titans, Jackson was 6-for-17 (35.3%) on such throws.
Harbaugh said he believes the passing game has to open up when defenses put extra defenders closer to the line to stop the run.
"We should have guys more open and we should have bigger plays and we should create more opportunities in the passing game because of that run game," Harbaugh said.
Jackson said last month that he didn't think he would be "running a lot" this season, but Harbaugh on Thursday wouldn't commit to Jackson throwing the ball more. Jackson's running ability and the threat of him running is what makes Baltimore's offense so unpredictable, Harbaugh said.
When asked about an "air show" from Jackson this season, Harbaugh indicated there are no plans to shift from a run-heavy attack to a more balanced one.
"I wouldn't say we're going to scrap the run game and I wouldn't say we're going to become a more conventional offense -- that's the last thing we want to do," Harbaugh said Thursday. "We didn't change the offense to scrap the idea that we want to cause people problems. We just want to get better at taking advantage of weaknesses."