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Stop Focusing On Lamar's Completion Percentage

Alex Woodward
August 14, 2019 - 4:15 pm
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By Alex Woodward

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Despite leading the team to the playoffs with a 6-1 record in the last 7 weeks of the 2018 season, there seems to be a ton of Lamar Jackson doubters as he heads into his 2nd year in the NFL. Many critics question if Lamar can stay healthy for an entire 16 game season and the biggest criticism of Jackson is his accuracy. 

Many are focusing on Lamar's completion percentage this season as a way of judging his progression from year 1 to year 2. That's a misguided way of judgment. Last season, Lamar completed 99 of 170 passes for a completion percentage of 58%. For reference, Joe Flacco owns a career completion percentage of 61%. If Lamar completed 5 more passes last year he would have matched Flacco's completion percentage of 61%. That's a thin line of improvement and it should be doable but I don't think judging Lamar's success should be based on an arbitrary number such as completion percentage. If he takes the Ravens to the playoffs again with a completion percentage of say, 59%; would you really complain about it?! At the end of the day wins are the most important stat and as long as he's not throwing 50% or worse, the emphasis on his completion percentage is an overblown narrative. 

Efficiency is most important for Lamar's success. Yes, accuracy is a way of judging efficiency but you also have to factor in yards per attempt, yards per completion, red zone success rate and of course, how many times he turns the ball over. For how innaccurate everyone makes Lamar out to be, those mistakes didn't result in many interceptions as he threw just three in the 2018 regular season. Maybe he got lucky or maybe that number would be higher if they let him throw it more last season. Regardless, from what I have seen from Lamar at minicamp and training camp this year his throwing mechanics have been cleaned up and he looks a bit more accurate. Sure, there are moments where you wonder who he was throwing to but for the most part, when he misses he does so in the right places...as in he's throwing the ball where only his receivers can make a play on it. Interceptions weren't the problem last season...it was his fumbles. There hasn't been much talk about that problem so far in training camp but it will certainly be a focus once the season starts and it's a bigger concern in my opinion than his completion percentage.

The Ravens say they plan on letting Lamar throw the football more often this season but it's not like it will be a dramatic increase. I think the key is how effective they are when they do decide to throw the ball. Last year he averaged 22 pass attempts per game compared to 17 rush attempts. I think that number will be closer to 25-28 pass attempts to 8-12 rush attempts depending on the game flow. This is the first year Greg Roman is the Ravens offensive coordinator and I fully expect him to maximize Lamar's capabilities.

In 6 years as an NFL offensive coordinator, Greg Roman's offenses have finished in the bottom third of the league in passing offense (yards and pass attempts) but 4 of his 6 years as an OC resulted in his offenses ranking in the top 10 in passing yards per attempt. That last stat will be most crucial for the Ravens success on offense this season. With the speed and talent added around Lamar this offseason, the Ravens are hoping they can turn that speed into big plays down the field and short routes that turn into big gains. They won't throw the ball a ton but when they do, they will be looking for chunk plays. Expect Greg Roman to scheme up creative ways to get the ball to speedsters Justice Hill and Marquise Brown in space and the threat of them breaking one open should help Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Miles Boykin work across the middle of the field. This offense won't be high flying but if they can connect on some deep shots coupled with a much faster offense, they could be more dangerous than you think. 

Lastly, you can't talk about what will be important to Lamar's success without mentioning the running game. Lamar will be a threat but with Mark Ingram now in the backfield and the creative possibilities with Justice Hill and Marquise Brown in this offense; they are even more of a juggernaut than the unit that led the league in rushing yards per game the last 7 games of 2018. The Ravens also have a favorable schedule to start the season as 5 of their first 7 opponents ranked in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards allowed per game and rushing touchdown's allowed in 2018. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see them use the ground and pound method early in the year and then slowly open up the passing offense for Lamar. 

All in all, we should be judging Lamar with our eyes not by the numbers. He doesn't need to finish the season with a completion percentage of over 60% for me to feel confident in Lamar Jackson as the Ravens starting QB. It's about quality not quantity. 

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