I’m going to make a case for the Baltimore Ravens to shut down Joe Flacco for the season. Flacco had a solid off season and looked healthy and ready to roll. He was solid through the first 4 games, but when his offensive line became thin due to injuries, his performance suffered the next 4 games.
As a result the offense because predictable and one dimensional. The Ravens receivers couldn’t beat press coverage, so defenses stacked the box and took the run away. Flacco lost confidence in his offensive line, and started throwing the ball to his primary read, determining where he would go with the ball pre-snap.
At halftime in the games against the Panthers and the Steelers, I commented that I did not see Flacco being able to bring the team back, and called for Lamar Jackson to come off of the bench in relief. Flacco hurt his hip during the Steelers game, and now it’s wait and see in regards to his availability for the Atlanta game this weekend.
Lamar Jackson has provided a spark for the team in relief, albeit against two terrible defenses. Teams can no longer play 10 on 11, as Jackson’s dual threat ability forces them to play 11 on 11. It’s an interesting dynamic, one that many offenses do not have and one that is difficult to prepare and game plan for defensive coordinators.
As Nestor Aparicio pointed out during our conference call today, I am not anti Joe Flacco as much as I am pro Lamar Jackson. I respect what Joe Flacco has done for the Ravens, and respect his body of work, particularly his performance during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run and subsequent victory in 2012, where he threw for 11 TDs vs zero interceptions.
But that was then and this is now. Flacco – like most NFL QBs – needs a stout offensive line and a strong running game, one that he can play action off of. He also needs receivers that can create separation, high point, and have a large catch radius. The Ravens could not provide any of those tools for Flacco, particularly in the last 4 games he played in.
To me there is no quarterback controversy in Baltimore, and it’s not even close. Clearly Lamar Jackson gives this team it’s best chance of winning. He is a dual threat QB, one that can compensate for a less than stellar offensive line. One that can buy time with his feet, which in turn allows receivers extra seconds to break free and lose their defenders.
Jackson is the reason that Gus Edwards has starred in the past two games, as linebackers and safeties have to freeze for a second, just to make sure that Edwards does in fact have the ball versus Jackson keeping it and going around the end for huge chunk plays. He has amazing feet and tape doesn’t come close to revealing just how fast he is, until other teams see him on the field and he is just a blur.
The rookie has a lot of growing to do, but the arm strength, touch, and all of the intangibles he possesses are all there. He spent the first half of Sunday’s game against the Raiders proving that he can throw the ball. Then in the second half he and the Ravens went back to their newly discovered identity and pushed the Raiders into oblivion via a dominating run game.
It’s a lot easier for offensive linemen to run block than it is to pass block. When run blocking they are firing off of the ball. When pass blocking they are on their heels and under attack. The strength of this offensive line clearly isn’t pass blocking, which is yet another reason as to why Jackson is the right QB for this team at this time.
As the season wears on Jackson has to strike a balance with his run/pass ratio and just let his instincts take over. He will stop over thinking and he will just react. He showed zip on the slant to Michael Crabtree for a touchdown, and he showed touch in the deep passes to Mark Andrews and John Brown, although the pass to Brown was called back for a hold.
The game against the Falcons is critical. If the Ravens lose, they’ll drop to 6-6 and probably finish 8-8. If they beat the Falcons then they have a chance at 9-7 and perhaps 10-6. In games past I’ve always said the Ravens would go as Joe Flacco and the offense would. The defense in most games was good enough.
In this game against the Falcons, I am confident that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense will put up points. My concern is how will the defense defend Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley and Tevin Coleman.
I think the recipe going forward is the same one the Ravens have used to defeat the Bengals and Raiders. Run the ball effectively and pass efficiently. Shorten the game. Don’t get into shootouts. There aren’t many teams that have the plethora of skill players that teams such as the Rams, Chiefs, Chargers and Saints have at their disposal.
The way to beat those teams is to take the air out of the ball, shorten the game, frustrate the opposing offenses by keeping them on the bench. Keep the game close and hope for turnovers and specials teams to be the difference makers.
The Ravens don’t even have a WR1 to make any sort of noise with those teams. Their best bet is to execute 15 -17 play drives, win the time of possession battle, take the opposition into deep water and hopefully drown them.
There is simply no upside to playing Joe Flacco again the rest of the season. To do so would be a disservice to him and to the organization. He is less than 100% and he would risk further injury. All indications are that the Ravens will move away from him at the end of the season. So why risk doing anything that would lessen his market value?
In this quarterback driven and starved league, Joe Flacco would command no less than a 3rd round draft pick all the way to a 1st! Jacksonville, Tampa Bay are just two teams that jump out as being QB needy in 2019. John Gruden absolutely loves QBs, and the silver and black have 3 first round draft picks next year. They also have around $83 million in cap space, so it’s not hard to imagine Joe Flacco in a Raiders uniform next year.
They are moving to Vegas, and he would be a great fit for them. They have a decent offensive line, and if they can give Flacco a running game and some receivers, he could do some damage with his big arm. But his time in Baltimore is done. The Ravens lack a 2nd round draft pick in next year’s draft and this is one of the few ways they can get it back.
They need to protect their investment in Joe Flacco to ensure they will get maximum return for him in the off-season. If he gets hurt again it will diminish his market value. He got hurt in the first series against the Steelers and spent the rest of the game stretching out his hip on the sideline. He is immobile and he would be a sitting duck.
In that game he severely under threw a wide open Michael Crabtree at the goal line. A healthy Joe Flacco would have completed that pass with his eyes close. The time has come for Joe Flacco to close out his career in Baltimore, and he deserves to do so with dignity.
The Ravens need to start Lamar Jackson the rest of the season, with RGIII as his back up on game day. Joe Flacco should rehab his hip and get himself ready for 2019. It is not only the business thing to do, it is the right thing.