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Deep Passing Hasn't Clicked Yet For Ravens

Posted Sep 26, 2013

Joe Flacco is 28th in the NFL in average yards per pass attempt. He could change that this week.

It’s not news that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has one of the strongest arms and throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL.

Last year, he was tied for second in the NFL with the Broncos’ Peyton Manning in completions of 25 yards or more. But this season, Flacco and the deep passing game haven’t gotten going yet.

Flacco ranks 28th in the NFL in yards per attempt (6.25). According to Pro Football Focus, he has completed just three of his 17 attempts of 20 or more yards.

As usual, Flacco wasn’t too alarmed.

“I think, overall, we just have to click a little bit more on everything we’re doing,” he said Wednesday. “But that’s growing, and we’re getting better.”

There are three main reasons for the change: injuries, drops and a lack of production in the short-to-intermediate passing early on this season.

Baltimore entered the preseason with a very speedy wide receiving corps that could stretch the field. That changed when Deonte Thompson (foot) went down in the preseason, and particularly when starter Jacoby Jones (knee) crumpled to the turf in Week 1.

Flacco said he’s sure Jones’ absence has “definitely affected” the deep passing game. But he also expressed confidence in his replacement, rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown.

“You stick Marlon right in there, and he’s got similar abilities in terms of speed, and he’s a really good wide receiver,” Flacco said.

Drops have also hurt Flacco’s completion percentage on long passes. Brown and Torrey Smith each lost control of potential deep touchdowns in Week 2. Other chances for big plays have also not been capitalized on by tight end Ed Dickson.

“We’ve taken our shots down field, we’ve come up with the ball at times and other times we haven’t,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “So, we need to make those plays.”

Another issue is that opposing defenses have been able to limit the deep pass, particularly to Smith, because Baltimore was having issues with its short-to-intermediate game due to the loss of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, and the lack of production from the tight ends.

That could change as wide receiver Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark have gained more chemistry with Flacco.

“It’s just a matter of being a little bit more successful in some of the other things we’re doing so that other areas can open up,” Flacco said.

Flacco said he “can’t force anything” to try to get the deep passing game on track. But he also doesn’t think the Ravens should abandon it because it hasn’t been successful yet.

“We still have to take chances,” he said. “It’s not like they’re high percentage all the time.”

The Ravens may have opportunities to attack the Buffalo Bills this Sunday. Buffalo’s secondary is crippled with injuries to its top four players: Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd (foot) and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (wrist), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Ron Brooks (foot).

With some of those players sidelined in Week 3, New York Jets rookie cornerback Geno Smith connected on passes of 45, 24, 51, 40 and 69 yards. The 51 and 69 yarders were for touchdowns.

Flacco was asked by the Buffalo media whether his eyes light up looking at the injuries the Bills are dealing with on the back end.

“I don’t know how you look at it, but we’ve got to make sure we run good routes and throw the ball well,” Flacco said. “I feel like every week, we feel like if we do that, then we can take advantage of some guys because it’s just the name of the game.”

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