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Spotlight: Joe Flacco

posted by Anthony Borbely on Jun 28th


Anthony Borbely's thoughts

When Joe Flacco entered the NFL in 2008, many people considered him a project that would need a year or two to develop. That was not too hard to understand since he played his college ball at Delaware and was not accustomed to the high level of competition that some of the other QBs were used to. Flacco proved the naysayers wrong when he won the starting QB spot in Baltimore as a rookie and went on to lead the Ravens to the playoffs. Flacco showed a lot of poise and leadership that most rookies lack.

Below are Flacco's stats from his first two seasons with the Ravens:

Year Comps Atts Yards TDs INTs
2008 257 428 2971 14 12
2009 315 499 3613 21 12

As you can see, Flacco's numbers went up across the board from his rookie year to year two. The first thing I noticed is Flacco only had 12 interceptions as a rookie and considering he played all 16 games and came from a small college, those numbers are very impressive. The Ravens obviously were careful to limit the offense which was a big reason for the low interceptions, but that should not take away from the accomplishment.

Flacco finished as QB17 in FBG scoring last year and it is natural to expect continued improvement. However, improvement as an NFL QB does not always coincide with higher fantasy numbers. The first thing to do is to take a deeper look into Flacco's numbers from 2008. What I noticed instantly was that Flacco's stats fell dramatically when Ray Rice became the focal point of the offense. Rice only averaged 12 carries per game in the first six and 18 in the last ten. Below is a comparison of Flacco's numbers in the first six games and the last ten. I will use a per game average for ease of analysis.

Games Comps Atts Yards TDs INTs
First6 24 38 279 11 5
Last10 17 27 194 10 7

It is obvious that when Rice's carries increased, Flacco's numbers fell dramatically across the board. The question is why did this happen? I think there are a multitude of reasons.

Reason #1: Ray Rice

Ray Rice entered the season as a committee back along with Willis McGahee, but as the season went on, Rice became the focal point of the offense. He averaged 12 carries per game in the first six games and 18 per game thereafter. He vaulted into the elite category of RBs and the Ravens obviously wanted Rice to carry the ball more than 12 times per game.

Reason #2: The Ravens record in the first six games

The Ravens had a strong 3-0 start to the season and benefited by facing the Chiefs and Browns, plus a struggling Chargers team. The next three games were against the Patriots, Bengals, and Vikings and they lost all three. Flacco put up solid numbers, but the Ravens were not playing Ravens football, which was to play solid defense, run the ball, and avoid turnovers. The first six games were very high scoring and that is not what Ravens football is all about. Their bye week was after this three game losing streak and immediately after that, they began to feature Rice and threw the ball much less.

Reason #3: Cam Cameron's offensive philosophy

This is perhaps the biggest reason for the change in offensive balance. In taking a closer look at some of Cameron's past QBs, a couple of things jump out at me. First, Drew Brees is the only QB Cameron has coached that has had 25 or more TD passes in a single season and he had a great red zone target in Antonio Gates. Also, no Cameron QB has ever hit 3700 yards. His offense is not designed for QBs to throw for 4000 yards and 30 TDs. That falls in line with the change in the Ravens' offense in the last ten weeks of 2009. A typical season for a Cameron-coached QB is along the lines of 3500 yards and 20-25 TDs.

Positives

  • Flacco has a big arm and can make all the necessary throws
  • The Ravens added Anquan Boldin to give Flacco another proven weapon to throw to
  • Flacco showed solid improvement between his rookie year and year two and should continue to get better with experience

Negatives

  • Flacco is not the most mobile QB around and occasionally shows below average accuracy
  • Regardless of the reasons, it is hard to ignore Flacco's declining numbers over the last ten games in 2009
  • The history of Cameron's offense suggests that Flacco's numbers will be limited

Final thoughts

Joe Flacco has proven in his two years that he is a solid NFL QB He has a great arm and can make all the throws. The addition of Boldin should help, but the fact remains that Cam Cameron is running the offense and he has only had one QB hit 25 TDs and has never had one hit 3700 yards. The emergence of Ray Rice further limits Flacco. The Ravens have long been a team that relies on playing strong defense and running the ball and that is unlikely to change this season. I believe Flacco will be a better QB this year, but am not certain that will translate into better numbers. While I do not expect Flacco's numbers to be as bad as they were over the last ten games, I simply do not expect his numbers to improve much over last year. That has nothing to do with Flacco himself; rather, it is Cam Cameron's offensive philosophy. I honestly do not expect the Ravens to start throwing the ball all over the field because of Cameron's offense.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

Joe Flacco seems to be poised to produce in 2010. He has a very strong and fairly accurate arm. In his rookie campaign, he completed 60.0% of his passes and in 09, he improved that to 63.1%. He has an improving offense that has added Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth, along with two rookie receiving TEs.

Even while he improved in 09, he stayed slightly under the radar as most consider the Ravens a running team. He may possibly provide a value option to your QB strategy in 2010. I think that his production was limited by minor nagging injuries, more than a focuc that the Ravens had to run the ball. Even while he was injured and struggled some coming down the stretch in 09, the Ravens threw 76 more passes in 09 than in 08. Passing TDs increased by 6 from 15 to 21 and yards per attempt increased by 0.1 to 7.2.

Considering the receiving weapons added for 2010, this could lead to a surprising increase. I would not be surprised at all with another slight uptick in the number of passes, the percentage complete, and the yards per attempt. The TDs are the most difficult to predict, but with continued maturity by Flacco in his third season, I would anticipate an increase there as well.

Flacco is currently going as QB10 and 73rd overall, but this is higher than in the past and could slip some as the season approaches. Regardless, he seems like a bargain pick there and would increase in value if he dropped further.

benson_will_lead_the_way said:

Improved greatly from rookie season to 2nd year TD/INT ratio went from 14/12 to 21/12. Add in Stallworth and Boldin, plus a more seasoned Rice and Harbaugh as coach = better #'s for Flacco.

thesitedoc said:

Flacco is the QB that is going to help win games by virtue of allowing you to grab RBs and WRs early and then nabbing him after the first round of QBs have gone. He'll produce like a borderline #1 but you'll benefit from a strong stable of RB's and WR's.

I predict 3900 27/12 by virtue of having added Stallworth and Boldin.

Their corners are still average so the defense may create for some close, good scoring games whereby they do not have the option to just "run" the clock out keeping the passing game alive through the 4th quarter.


Joe Flacco projections

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