The jury was still very much out on Lamar Jackson this time a year ago. Despite his success after taking over as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback, Jackson struggled in Baltimore's playoff loss to the Chargers, as the many things Jackson did well during his rookie season were overshadowed by he and his team's playoff shortcomings.
There are no longer doubts about whether or not Jackson can have success as a starting NFL quarterback, not after Jackson took home league MVP honors while leading Baltimore to a 14-2 record during the 2019 regular season. The only remaining question is whether or not Jackson can have success in the playoffs after the Ravens were upset by the Titans in the divisional round. His lack of playoff success is what is currently motivating Jackson, who believes that he and his teammates made the mistake of overlooking the Titans prior to their 28-14 loss.
"Lamar is motivated by that fact," Ravens team reporter Garrett Downing told CBS Sports' Will Brinson during the most recent edition of the Pick Six Podcast. "He's heard it, and he's using that as motivation. He recognizes that in order for him to take the next step, he has to win a playoff game. They've got to win in January. I think that is very much [his top priority]."
In order to help Jackson have more success in 2020, Downing believes that a breakout season is in the works for second-year receiver Marquise Brown, who emerged as the Ravens' top receiver last year despite dealing with various injuries.
"I think Marquise Brown is going to have a big-time second season," Downing said. "He's put on a ton of muscle [this offseason]. He was really good as a rookie, and he was playing on one foot ... He was hobbled and was open about that last season. He looks like he's 100% now. I think he's going to take a huge step forward and be a dynamic player for this offense."
Downing said a big question mark for the Ravens' offense will be how the team disperses their carries between Jackson and running backs Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins. Downing believes that the Ravens, despite not having a major need at running back, chose to select Dobbins with the 55th pick with the thought that Dobbins can be the team's eventual starting back for years to come.
"The running back rotation will be really interesting to see how the Ravens divvy up those carries," Downing said. "They're doing all this talk about a four-headed monster. It's hard to get the ball to four different running backs plus a quarterback that runs for over 1,000 yards ... But Dobbins is good enough that he's gonna cut into a piece of the pie, I think, of what Ingram had and what the other running backs had last year as well."
The Ravens have added several big additions to the defensive side. After trading a fifth-round pick to the Jaguars to acquire former All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell, the Ravens used their first-round pick to select former LSU linebacker Patrick Queen. The two players will join a Baltimore defense that finished third in the league in scoring last season.
"Calais Campbell is the quintessential Ravens addition," Downing said. "They put significant resources into the defense this offseason and I think they're gonna be much better this season than they were last year."
Given the strength of their roster, Downing, who believes that the Ravens are certainly capable of winning 13 or 14 games in 2020, says that their biggest challenge in 2020 will be managing expectations, both internal as well as external.
"They're stacked. It's a stacked roster, a stacked team," Downing said. "I think the biggest hurdle they'll have to overcome is now they have the expectation. The expectation inside the building and for a lot of people outside the building is that the Ravens at a minimum are in the AFC Championship this year. That's a starting point. And even beyond that, I think there's a big expectation that this team's going to get to the Super Bowl and maybe win it ... They're going to get everyone's best shot."