Rookie Lamar Jackson prepares to make 1st road start for Ravens
— The first pass Lamar Jackson threw in college was inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. He remembers it well. “I threw an interception on my first play ever, so I remember that very vividly,” Jackson said Wednesday.
Louisville lost to No. 6 Auburn, 31-24, to open the 2015 college football season. Jackson, a freshman then, started that Week 1 game – at running back. He made his first start at quarterback the following week, won the Heisman Trophy playing the position the following season and was a first-round draft pick the year after that.
Now a rookie with the Ravens, Jackson expects to make the third start of his NFL career Sunday when Baltimore travels to face the slumping Atlanta Falcons. Long-time starter Joe Flacco missed practice again Wednesday, meaning it will likely be the rookie under
center for the Ravens in a game crucial to maintaining their hold on the sixth and final AFC Playoff spot.
Jackson is currently 2-0 as a starter, but both wins have come in M&T Bank Stadium. He travels back to Atlanta, the location of his first college pass that he remembers so vividly, though not to the same stadium. The Falcons moved to the fancy new Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year.
“I love road games. I just try to make the crowd turn to our [side], make it be like our home environment. I like to do that, silence the crowd,” Jackson said. “I’m just looking forward to getting to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and just have to do what I’m supposed to do: win the game.”
Flacco has not practiced since sustaining a right hip injury on Nov. 4. The Falcons have not won since the same date and are looking to end their three-game skid.
Head coach John Harbaugh chose not to comment on Flacco’s status, only saying “he’s progressing very well.”
Harbaugh added that Jackson’s first road start will feature challenges he has not yet faced at home.
“There is a new set of issues with playing on the road that will be another level, absolutely,” Harbaugh said. “Crowd noise, cadence, snap counts, communication, even the earphone and getting the plays and things like that, being prepared if that is a problem. All those things will be [important]. Yes, it will be a new level. It will be a challenge for all of us. But, he’s up to it – looking forward he does.”
He noted that big stadiums and rabid fans are nothing new for Jackson after playing in the ACC. Harbaugh mentioned rookie tight ends Mark Andrews (Oklahoma) and Hayden Hurst (South Carolina), too, who played in the Big XII and SEC, respectively, to contend that all of Baltimore’s rookies are accustomed to hostile environments.
“I feel coach, in practice, will have some music going or something like that, try to have the crowd going to see how our offense responds to the noise, see if it distracts us or not,” Jackson said.
Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs says the Ravens defense makes practice harder on the rookie quarterback than the Atlanta fans will make Sunday’s game.
“It’s not going to get more hostile than what he’s had here. You don’t get to see to seeing how
how we treat him at practice,” Suggs said. “He’s been preparing for hostile environments. We’ll try and tone it up a little bit more for him.”
A third-straight win for the Ravens
and a 3-0 record for Jackson as a starter could solidify his grasp on that role. Baltimore’s playoff hopes would grow exponentially and it would be hard to imagine any team sitting the quarterback guiding the win streak. group of players huddle together to flip through the pages.
“You just look at them smiling and laughing. They’re how old now? And to still come back after 40 years is pretty cool to see,” Molly Shea said. “I remember the story of them going to the state championship [in 1985], and they got the police escort back. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
“Elkton is a special place and it’s definitely a special bond that they have.”
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles during Sunday’s 34-17 win over the Oakland Raiders.