Robert Griffin III’s analysis: Watch out for Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens
The ESPN analyst and onetime Ravens quarterback believes his former teammate is poised to return to top form
These days, Robert Griffin III is an astute NFL and college football analyst for ESPN.
The fast-riser is among the best in a business he entered only two years ago. While providing keen insight into every aspect of the game, Griffin also entertains with his smooth, understated approach.
And although Griffin monitors the entire league, he keeps a close eye on his former employer, the Baltimore Ravens. A onetime backup to star quarterback Lamar Jackson, Griffin believes his former teammate, who was sidelined by injuries much of the past two seasons, is poised to regain his standing as the NFL’s top dual-threat passer.
Teamed with new Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken and working with the team’s potentially best receiving corps of his career — including Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr., whom the Ravens signed during the offseason — Jackson appears to be in a favorable position to thrive again. Ravens franchise owner Steve Bisciotti is counting on it.
In April, Bisciotti rewarded Jackson with the largest contract in Ravens history. Now, Bisciotti looks to Jackson to lead the team deep into the postseason, something the former league MVP is yet to do. But this season, Griffin said, it would be unwise to bet against Jackson.
“Make no mistake about it, L.J. has made it a habit to prove his doubters wrong at every level of football he has played,” Griffin, who won the 2011 Heisman Trophy and the Associated Press 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, wrote in a text message to Andscape last week.
“He hears everything. … Now, he will get back to letting his play do the talking with the best team he has ever had around him.”
For a long stretch, much of the talk about Jackson has focused on his injuries and his contract status.
Jackson has finished the last two seasons injured. During that span, he has missed 11 games, including Baltimore’s AFC wild-card playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last season.
Then there was Jackson’s contract spat with Ravens management.
In March, Jackson took to Twitter to reveal he had requested a trade because of the long running impasse in his negotiations with the franchise. The sides reconciled after Jackson signed a new contract of which $185 million is guaranteed fully. In practical guarantees, Jackson has the fourth-richest contract in NFL history.
The outcome was great for Jackson and the Ravens, but his “injuries the past two years have been unfortunate,” Griffin wrote. “And the conversation surrounding his contract [has] been a massive distraction for the team, whether anyone will come out and say it or not.”
However, Griffin was quick to add, Jackson will be fueled by all of it.
“Lamar Jackson ALWAYS plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Griffin wrote. “So this is nothing new.”
So much has happened since Jackson won the 2019 AP NFL MVP Award, it’s almost hard to remember how spectacular he can be, when he’s healthy, both passing and running. In his MVP season, Jackson led the league with 36 touchdown passes (he had only six interceptions) and he established a NFL single-season rushing record by a quarterback with 1,206 yards.
Jackson and Tom Brady are the only unanimous winners of the AP MVP award. You know you’ve done something significant when you’re the only other passer in a category with the most successful signal-caller in league history.
At only 26, Jackson is on the right side of 30 (he won’t turn 27 until January 2024). And when Jackson has played during the regular season, the Ravens have soared: He has a career record of 45-16.
During the postseason, Jackson’s story is much different. In four playoff starts, he’s only 1-3, and his production has declined from the regular season.
The Ravens are counting on Monken, Beckham and rookie wideout Zay Flowers (the team’s first-round draft pick has dazzled early in training camp), among others, to help Griffin reverse the Ravens’ bad playoff trend recently.
Monken comes to the Ravens after helping the University of Georgia win consecutive national championships. Monken, who’s widely considered to be an innovative offensive coach, also has extensive NFL experience, as offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Typically, the Ravens’ offensive line is among the league’s best and it should be again this season, Griffin believes, and All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews remains a rock star.
For these reasons and others, Jackson has never been in a better position within the offense he directs. Then there’s Baltimore’s defense. It gave up the third-fewest points in the league last season, is led by first-team All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith and has playmakers at every level.
Few teams, Griffin observed, have such strong rosters.
“The Ravens were an unstoppable force [during Jackson’s MVP season] and had the most rushing yards ever in NFL history,” Griffin wrote. “They came up short in the playoffs [that season and in others]. … That is where the new additions [of players] along with Todd Monken will have the biggest impact. Don’t worry about the numbers this year or how the Ravens start the season. The Ravens will use the season to build towards a playoff run.
“With so many new faces, the first half of the season will be used to build in-game chemistry. After all, they have the right guy in Monken for the X’s and O’s. But now they also have the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s to help their star QB be even better.”
Finally, Griffin capped his Ravens breakdown with his most salient observation, writing that Baltimore has “the pieces in place to not just win the Super Bowl but be a dominant force in doing it.”
Makes sense. And if Jackson remains in the lineup throughout the season while also turning back the clock, Griffin’s analysis just might be spot-on again.