If Joe doesn’t have anyone to throw to, how can he take the next step?

August 03, 2011 | Peter Dilutis

An idea that was floating around today on “The Morning Reaction” was that the Ravens may be placing a greater emphasis on the running game as they head into the 2011 season.

One of the points made was that in the NFL today, often times 3rd and 3, for example, is now viewed as a passing down. With Vonta Leach now in the fold as one of the best fullbacks in the game, as well as the lack of experienced, proven depth at the wide receiver position, one notion is that the Ravens may go back to the smash-mouth style of the past, most notably 2008.

If we think back to the 2008 season, what were passing downs for most teams were often running situations for the Ravens and their three headed monster, which some people may forget was actually led by Pro-Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal.

Pounding the football is all well and good. It worked for Baltimore during Flacco’s first season. That style of play took the Ravens to the brink of the Super Bowl in 2008. It worked, and it could possibly work again.

But then how is Joe Flacco going to continue to improve?

As I wrote when the Ravens released Heap and Mason, the keys to the convertible are now in Joe Flacco’s hands. He’s the man in Baltimore. He has already started to show that through his comments with the media, and he will continue to take on more of a leadership role day in and day out.

Joe Flacco isn’t shying away from being “the guy.”

But he does need a little bit of help.

Asking Joe Flacco to take the next step is great. Honestly at this point in his career, that’s expected.

Having said that, one of the reasons Joe hasn’t taken the “next step” yet is because the offense has been too conservative. We’ve all been down that road with Cam Cameron, especially last season. That’s a whole different argument for a different day…or week.

But if Joe walks out of the M&T Bank Stadium tunnel on September 11th and goes to battle with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and Tandon Doss, can he REALLY take over and become the man?

Is there any “elite” quarterback in the NFL that operates a run-first offense? And we all want Joe Flacco to become elite, right?

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is it Joe Flacco’s responsibility to make Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss into solid contributors just as Peyton Manning has recently with Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon? Or did Manning need toys such as Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne to play with for a few seasons before he himself rose to greatness?

And even if an elite quarterback should be expected to make his receivers better, will Cam Cameron let him? If Cam didn’t want to open up the passing game last season with Boldin, Mason, and Houshmandzadeh, I can only imagine what he’s going to think looking out at Boldin, Smith, and Doss, if it does in fact come to that.

Of course, the Ravens may still go out and sign a Malcolm Floyd or Braylon Edwards, the former being more likely, which will make the passing game look much brighter in Ravens country.

But if that doesn’t happen, perhaps all Ravens fans, myself included, need to temper our Flacco fever.

We might enjoy seeing that rugged, pounding, tough, smash-mouth style, and that’s great…as long as we acknowledge the fact that that type of team will end the “elite” talk regarding Joe Flacco for at least another year.