OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Earl Thomas understands how dangerous a mobile quarterback can be in the NFL.
For seven years, the Pro Bowl safety watched Russell Wilson elude defenders in Seattle and throw on the run when it looked like the play was going nowhere. He saw Wilson complement a defensive-minded team and lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in his second season.
Now, Thomas is in Baltimore where he has gotten his first up-close look at Lamar Jackson, who made a splash in the NFL by becoming the only rookie quarterback last year to lead his team to the playoffs.
"He’s a star in the making," Thomas said. "Box office."
Thomas, whose locker is next to Jackson, faced off against Jackson in the open field Thursday, the final day of Baltimore's mandatory minicamp. With Thomas trying to chase down Jackson, the second-year quarterback was making everyone miss by zig-zagging, juking and cutting back.
As Baltimore's offseason workouts wrapped up, Jackson is still at his best when running around. With his speed and moves, he often went untouched for 30 yards when breaking out of the pocket.
Improving as a passer is Jackson's focus for the upcoming season as well as the next six weeks leading up to training camp. Jackson plans to organize a throwing session with all of his wide receivers in July and will continue to work with his personal quarterback coach Joshua Harris.
There is also a chance that Jackson will meet with noted quarterback tutor Tom House, 72, a a former major league pitcher who runs a quarterback academy in California. He is renown for refining quarterbacks’ passing mechanics and has helped some of the best quarterbacks including Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady.
"I got better with my fundamentals, but I’m not perfect," Jackson said. "So I’m going to keep working on it always. You’re never too great, so I have to keep going."
Jackson took over for the injured Joe Flacco around midseason last year and led the Ravens to their first AFC North title in six years, but he created more plays with his legs than his arm. In seven starts, he only eclipsed 200 yards passing once and threw multiple touchdowns in one game.
When the offseason program began, Jackson stressed that he wanted to clean up his mechanics. He threw sidearm at times and failed to step into throws on other occasions.
Over the four weeks of on-field workouts, Jackson showed improvement in his throwing motion and footwork, although his practices were typically uneven. He looked good in one drill, struggle in the next one before rebounding at the end of day.
On Thursday, Jackson had his most efficient red zone session, throwing five touchdowns on seven passes (including one dropped pass in the end zone). He followed that up with a rough full-team drill, which featured one interception and a poor decision. After running close to the sideline to avoid the rush, he chose to throw across his body and back to the middle of the field.
"I’ve just been working hard, trying to perfect my craft," Jackson said when asked to assess his three-day minicamp. "I’m trying to be the best that I can be to help my team win games, get in great situations. I feel I was very productive."
Jackson later added, "But today was pretty outstanding."
In wrapping up minicamp, the Ravens have to feel good about the direction Jackson is headed, especially with the changes and challenges surrounding him.
Baltimore has rebuilt the offense, putting in different terminology, formations and cadences. Jackson is also dealing with a new wide receiver group. Only two current receivers (Willie Snead and Chris Moore) caught passes from Jackson last year in the regular season.
“He’s a much better player than he was a year ago,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And he will be a much better player at the end of training camp than he is right now.”