Ravens' secret weapon? Lamar Jackson 'absolutely' ready to play

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to say earlier in the week whether quarterback Lamar Jackson would be active in Sunday's season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

If called upon, would Jackson be ready to take the field for a handful of specialty plays?

"Absolutely," Jackson said with a smile. "I’ve been preparing for it through the OTAs, rookie minicamp. I’m just ready."

Jackson, a first-round pick, certainly can be a playmaking wrinkle and a creative spark for a Baltimore offense that finished No. 27 in the NFL and ranked last in big plays last season.

Over the past two seasons at Louisville, Jackson produced the most runs of 10 yards or more in the FBS and set a school record by scoring 119 touchdowns. In the preseason, he showed a knack for getting into the end zone, proving especially dangerous in the red zone.

"It’s difficult practicing against the kid," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "When you have an explosive and phenomenal talent like that, it’s very fun if he’s on your team, and it’s not fun to prepare against him."

In June, Harbaugh indicated Jackson would be active on game days. On Monday, he was less forthcoming.

If Jackson does suit up, that probably would mean Robert Griffin III would be inactive.

"We’ll do whatever is best for our team," Harbaugh said. "Any given Sunday, we’ll have the 46 guys up that give us the best chance to be successful."

The Ravens put Jackson and Joe Flacco on the field at the same time during spring workouts and the early part of training camp. Baltimore didn't show any of these plays during the preseason.

Jackson also could be used as a quarterback in special packages. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have a history of doing this.

Under Roman, the 49ers ran the "WildKaep" in 2012 with Colin Kaepernick spelling Alex Smith. Under Mornhinweg, the Eagles used Michael Vick for an average of five snaps per game in 2009, when Donovan McNabb was the starter.

The Bills are bracing for the possibility of facing Jackson at some point in the game.

"We understand the threat that he brings when he's on the field," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "So, we spend a considerable amount of time preparing for him."

One area where the Ravens could utilize Jackson is in the red zone. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, Baltimore has ranked No. 28 inside the 20-yard line, scoring touchdowns on 51.5 percent of its trips there.

In the preseason, Jackson accounted for five touchdowns in the red zone. He threw two touchdown passes inside the 20 and ran into the end zone three times.

"Anytime you’re dealing with a mobile quarterback anywhere on the field, especially in the red zone, you have to cage him -- you can’t let him out," Harbaugh said. "You have to rush inside and in front; you can’t open up rushing lanes. You’re going to be one gap short if you rush four, two gaps short if you rush three, you know? If you rush five, now you’re a man short in coverage. It creates a dilemma, because the quarterback can score pretty much from anywhere on the field if you let him get out and run behind the defensive line. That’s a factor; it’s a valuable trait for any of the guys that can do that in the red zone.”

Jackson's grasp of the offense has progressed throughout the summer. In his first three preseason games, he failed to complete over half of his passes. In his final two games, Jackson completed 64 percent and posted a 103.2 passer rating.

"I’d be very excited," Jackson said about of getting on the field. "I’m trying to score touchdowns and trying to win the game. I can’t wait to get that first contact for real against a true No. 1 defense."