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Spreading Ball Making Joe Flacco Less Predictable

Posted Oct 1, 2012

In each of the Ravens' first four games, a different receiver has shined.

Predicting who will be Joe Flacco’s top target each week is a problematic task for opposing defenses.

The fifth-year quarterback has spread the ball around to just about everybody, targeting at least seven different players in all four of the Ravens games.

"It’s crazy,” said wide receiver Tandon Doss, who made a critical 39-yard catch inThursday’s win over the Browns. "It could be anyone’s day. It just depends on what the defense gives us and what Joe is feeling.”

As such, various receivers have been given a chance to shine.

Torrey Smith was the playmaker in the win over New England with 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Anquan Boldin took over in the second half against the Browns, finishing with nine catches for 131 yards. Tight end Dennis Pitta was targeted 15 times against the Eagles and Jacoby Jones came up with key fourth-down plays against the Patriots.

And Ray Rice is still second in the NFL with 491 yards from scrimmage.

"It allows you to be less predictable,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I think that’s a philosophy thing, that’s the way we want to approach it. The more good players you have, the more ways you want to get the ball in their hands. "

Here is a look at the Ravens’ five leading receivers in order of total yards through the first quarter of the season:

Smith: 28 targets, 16 receptions, 332 yards, 3 TDs
Boldin: 28 targets, 19 receptions, 249 yards, 1 TD
Pitta: 32 targets, 18 receptions, 188 yards, 2 TDs
Rice: 31 targets, 22 receptions, 174 yards, 0 TD
Jones: 16 targets, 9 receptions, 170 yards, 1 TD

The emergence of players like Smith, Pitta, Jones, Doss and tight end Ed Dickson has allowed the Ravens to be more versatile, which keeps defenses guessing.

"It’s good to have it where people can’t zero in on one guy,” Harbaugh said. "You can’t say ‘it’s Ray Rice,’ there’s a lot more people you have to defend out there.”

The other part of the equation is the step that Flacco has taken in the offense. He has thrived in the no-huddle, and the Ravens are throwing the ball more than ever. Flacco has attempted 156 passes, tied for seventh-most in the NFL.  Through the first four games last season, Flacco had thrown 140 times.

Flacco has taken command of the offense and is adjusting each week based on how the defense approaches the unit. And that strategy   is giving all of the Ravens receivers an opportunity to make big plays.

"Who gets the ball, when, depends more on what the defense gives you. It’s Joe going through his progressions. I think that’s dictated more by the situation and what you’re confronted with defensively."

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