Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was the first coach in the NFL to face Lamar Jackson as a starting quarterback.
Jackson played in all 16 games in 2018 but didn't make a real impact until Week 11 against the Bengals, when he made his debut as a starter. The Ravens won, 24-21, and Jackson had 119 yards on the ground and 150 through the air.
"I had the experience of Lamar Jackson, the first opportunity he had as a starter, and obviously he capitalized," Lewis said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Before that game, the Ravens were 4-5 and struggling to stay afloat in the crowded AFC wild-card picture, but Jackson then lead the team to a 6-1 record and the AFC North title in the seven regular-season games he started.
Jackson is now preparing to begin the 2019 campaign as the Ravens' starting quarterback. This will be the first time in 11 years that someone other than Joe Flacco will step under center to take the first snap of the season for the Ravens.
Flacco had been a mainstay in Baltimore since he was drafted in 2008 and started all 16 games for the Ravens that year. He won a Super Bowl in February 2013 and holds almost every franchise passing record by a landslide. Now, it's Jackson's turn to take control of the team, and Flacco is
reportedly set to be traded to the Denver Broncos
Lewis was aware of Jackson's skill set and knows what Jackson and the Ravens have in store this offseason.
"I think it'll be a different look," Lewis said. "Their offense will have a different structure and so forth and they'll be able to build and grow around him rather than doing it midseason as they did. That's the thing they've got to be excited about, his ability to make plays. No doubt, he's a play-making player."
Jackson and the Ravens were very successful with their new-look offense that featured an immense amount of running and tough defensive play. While the Ravens gave other teams a lot of trouble the first time that they saw this new look, the Los Angeles Chargers were able to figure it out the second time that they played each other.
The Ravens beat the Chargers, 22-10, in Week 16, but two weeks later in the wild-card round, the Chargers' coaching staff put together a game plan that almost completely shut down the Ravens' offense for three quarters.
Would the Bengals have been in a better spot to defend Jackson had they played him a second time?
"I think our players would've had a better feel for Lamar's foot speed and so forth and the discipline it takes if you're going to play true option football," Lewis said. "I think that happened in our game. The first third down that we faced, third-and-6 or 7, and they run quarterback draw. Some of those things it takes a little bit for everybody to adjust to."
It might be a little worrisome hearing a former coach say that it may be easier a second time to stop Jackson and the offense. But Lewis believes Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban, who worked under Lewis as the Bengals' wide receivers coach from 2011-2017, will help Jackson develop.
"I think he'll really be able to help Lamar grow this offseason, help him to understand coverage, where the weakness of the coverage is, how they should go about and attack the coverage," Lewis said. "… I think that time on task will make that very helpful for Lamar."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
For more from Lewis, listen to the full interview here: