Rookie Lamar Jack­son pre­pares to make 1st road start for Ravens

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN sgro­[email protected]­cil­whig.com

— 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

OWINGS MILLS

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.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SCOTT SERIO

Bal­ti­more Ravens quar­ter­back Lamar Jack­son (8) scram­bles dur­ing Sun­day’s 34-17 win over the Oak­land Raiders.

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