Young quarterbacks could take the reins in the AFC North, while this could be the season that things click for the Chargers in the AFC West.
The debut of Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson started slowly, and he showed some flashes. But it was the inconsistent performance you’d come to expect from a rookie with a high ceiling, but a lot to learn.
Jackson’s first three dropbacks resulted in scrambles. His first series ended in a three-and-out and a punt. He had some inaccurate throws, but also made plenty of plays that showed why the Ravens selected him with the last pick in the first round of the draft.
Entering the Ravens’ 17-16 victory against the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game at the start of the second half, Jackson completed 4 of 10 passes for 33 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He ran the ball five times for 28 yards before taking three kneeldowns at the end of the game, each for a loss of a yard.
Jackson also took three sacks. So, despite any speculation that might have emerged that Jackson might make a push for legitimate playing time at quarterback, Baltimore is still very clearly Joe Flacco’s team.
In Jackson’s second drive, he scrambled for a gain of 10, converted a long third down, and threw his first career touchdown on a turnover-shortened field. The series started at Chicago’s own 36-yard line, but ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hayden Hurst on a quick out route.
Jackson’s night, however, continued to be inconsistent.
On his third series, Jackson misfired on a comeback route. He flung the ball on the inside of the route, while receiver Jaleel Scott was moving to the outside, allowing Bears corner Doran Grant to jump the pass and intercept the ball.
Jackson was most dangerous when he dropped back, scanned the field, and used his threat to run. He showcased an ability to both extend a play and find a receiver down the field, as well as speed and burst to evade defenders on scrambles.
Still, Jackson will need to work on his accuracy and timing in anticipating throws, but overall, this was a positive first step that showed he was comfortable in the pocket.
Flacco, like many veterans from both teams, did not play Thursday night.
Robert Griffin III, though, started the game, playing in his first contest since the regular-season finale of the 2016 season.
Griffin played well, completing seven of 11 throws for 58 yards, one touchdown, one interception and added three carries for nine yards. The pick wasn’t Griffin’s fault, as the first quarter throw was perfectly on target, but squirted out of receiver Breshad Perriman’s hands and into those of Bears safety DeAndre Houston-Carson.
Fighting for a roster spot and the No. 2 job behind Flacco, Griffin made his case, showing prompt decision-making from the pocket and a good feel for pressure inside the pocket — despite playing with mostly second- and third-string players.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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