National Football League
Lamar Jackson bulks up in bid to reclaim MVP form for Ravens
National Football League

Lamar Jackson bulks up in bid to reclaim MVP form for Ravens

Updated Jul. 10, 2022 6:15 p.m. ET

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer

Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban hadn't seen Lamar Jackson since the regular season ended in January. 

Urban noticed Jackson had bulked up during his offseason training regimen away from the team's facility. He liked what he saw. 

"This is a game built for big, strong, fast men, right?" Urban quipped. "So I think he's checking three of those boxes right now." 


Jackson said he's usually between 205 and 208 pounds but reported to his team's mandatory minicamp in June weighing 220.

Entering his fifth NFL season, he said he added bulk by working with his personal trainer, Emonee Spence, in his native South Florida.

"I just wanted to do it, see how it looks and see how it feels," he said. "And I feel good." 

After he missed the last four games of 2021 due to a bone bruise in his right ankle, putting on some armor and gaining more muscle was part of Jackson's offseason reclamation product. Jackson said he also spent time in Southern California with "3DQB" throwing guru Adam Dedeaux, tightening up his throwing mechanics.

The goal for Jackson is to get back to the way he played in 2019, when he stunned NFL observers by unanimously winning the league MVP award. 

"I feel better than I did in 2019, I'll tell you that," Jackson said. "I'm very eager." 

Will Lamar Jackson return to MVP form?

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Of course, the Ravens and Jackson have yet to reach agreement on a new contract. Jackson is in the final year of his rookie deal, set to make a little more than $23 million in 2022. Jackson, who does not have an agent, said he has had discussions with Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta. 

The Ravens have indicated they are enthusiastic about having Jackson in Baltimore long-term. 

"We're having a conversation about it," Jackson told reporters about his contract status. 

The Louisville product said he expects to remain with Baltimore for the rest of his NFL career. However, he struggled through his worst season as a pro last year. In 12 starts, he completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,882 yards, with just 16 touchdown passes and a career-high 13 interceptions. Jackson's 87.0 passer rating was among the bottom third in the NFL for starting quarterbacks. 

After racing to an 8-3 record, the Ravens lost their last six games, finishing 8-9 and out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2017 season. 

It wasn't all on Jackson. The team suffered a glut of injuries to the offensive line and in the secondary. Five of its last six losses were by three points or fewer. 

John Harbaugh remains one of the best head coaches in the business, and the Ravens will get things turned around. They must replace No. 1 receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown after trading him to the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason. 

Defensively, the Ravens should be much better with the addition of rangy free safety Marcus Williams, along with slot cornerback Kyle Fuller

They added offensive tackle Morgan Moses and drafted center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round, so protecting Jackson better is a priority. All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley played only one game last season due to an ankle injury and is on the road to recovery. 

But it all starts with more efficient play from Jackson. 

"There were things — and he and I talked about it on the field — communication things, cadence things and some of the new offensive stuff," Harbaugh told reporters in June. "That's not stuff that he was here for to immerse himself into the OTAs. That's the only thing, and that's something we easily make up in training camp. 

"But as far as the throwing, the catching, the targeting and all of that — the playmaking stuff — I was happy to see that. I was wondering about it, how it was going to look. But to see him look that good and to see the shape he's in and see how well he threw the ball, for a coach that's all very exciting." 

Jackson said he will get together with his pass-catchers at Florida Atlantic University hosted by coach Willie Taggert in the lead-up to training camp. While critics point to Jackson's shortcomings as a pocket passer (some NFL observers thought he should move to wide receiver), all he does is win games. 

Jackson is 37-12 as a starter in the regular season. Last season, he passed Dan Marino, becoming the first quarterback in league history to reach 35 career victories before the age of 25. However, Jackson has struggled in the playoffs, posting a 1-3 record. 

And Jackson is still an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. He ranks seventh all time in rushing yards by a quarterback (3,673). His 10 career performances with at least 100 rushing yards are tied with Michael Vick for the most by a QB in NFL history. 

One way for the Ravens to return Jackson to an MVP-type performance is to go back to what made him successful: a ground-and-pound approach using a diverse run game, paced by J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards and employing more two-tight-end sets. The Ravens already have one of the best tight ends in football in Mark Andrews, who led all tight ends in receiving yards (1,361) and receptions (107) last season.

Fellow tight end Nick Boyle is on track for a healthy return to the field after a season-ending knee injury, and Baltimore drafted two athletic, pass-catching tight ends in this year's draft in Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely

During Jackson's MVP season, the Ravens successfully ran heavy formations with at least two tight ends nearly 50% of the time. 

"As a professional, we're all our harshest critics," Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman told reporters in June. "I think we know the truth, and you just believe in that and keep trying to get better every day. Don't get set in your ways, and keep trying to adapt, evolve and adjust."

Eric D. Williams has covered the NFL for more than a decade, reporting on the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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