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Booger McFarland: Lamar Jackson Must Improve As A Passer

January 10, 2019
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was very successful in the seven regular-season games he started after Joe Flacco went down with a hip injury, leading the Ravens to a 6-1 record to finish the season and an AFC North title.

But for all the success Jackson had in the short term, those accomplishments might be fleeting if the rookie doesn't improve as a passer, according to ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Booger McFarland.

"For what they've asked him to do, he has been outstanding," McFarland said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 4 before the Ravens' 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round Jan. 6. "But if we want to take a 30,000-foot look at it, he's thrown for 200 yards one time. He's really been inconsistent in the passing game, and he's really making a lot of plays running the football."

In Jackson's eight starts (including the postseason), he averaged 163.5 passing yards per game, never attempting more than 29 passes. He was far more effective on the ground, averaging 16 carries and 76.3 yards per game.

"I personally do not think that that is a long-term solution for any quarterback, not Lamar Jackson or any quarterback in this league," McFarland said. "You have to be able to consistently throw the football from the pocket to sustain success. If you go back to the history of this league, name me a quarterback that has done it running the football the majority of the time, I can't think of one."

The quarterback position goes beyond being physically gifted, McFarland said. He pointed to former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell and No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III, both of whom had outstanding physical traits but lacked some of the decision making and other qualities to succeed at the position. 

"I love [Jackson's] mental makeup. I love his vision. He and his mom set out for him to quarterback a long time ago and they've stuck with that," McFarland said. "It's one of the better stories we've heard in a long time. He did not conform to what a lot of people -- including myself -- thought he was going to be, which was probably a corner or a wide receiver. He stuck to his convictions, and that's fine. I applaud him for that."

Jackson still has the potential to be a pocket quarterback moving forward, McFarland said. The key is for Jackson to improve his accuracy in addition to making plays with his legs.

"The name of the game in this league -- because the guys on defense are so fast -- you have to throw the ball from the pocket with accuracy to give your playmakers an opportunity to do something after the catch," McFarland said.

On the year, Jackson finished with a 58.2 percent completion rate, completing more than 60 percent of his throws just twice -- against the Cincinnati Bengals Nov. 18 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Dec. 16.

"If you want to have long-term success now you have to take the next step," McFarland said, "and the next step is when you throw the football in this league, you have to become a 60 to 65 percent passer because that's what the league is now. 

"On top of that, if Lamar is really going to be what a lot of people think he can, he's going to need to get a No. 1 wide receiver. If I'm a free agent wide receiver, do I want to come to play with Lamar Jackson who is wildly inaccurate? That's a question I have to ask because my life expectancy in the league is dependent on the quarterback getting me the ball."

To Jackson's credit, he had just four interceptions during his eight starts.

"If he continues to get better at that with the dynamic weapons he has below his hips, he'll be able to take the league by storm but just running the football he won't be able to do it," McFarland said. "He has to become a complete quarterback. If he does, he'll be able to do things even Michael Vick couldn't do."

For more from McFarland, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox