There has been some concern among Ravens fans and the media that covers the team that quarterback Joe Flacco is throwing too many interceptions during training camp.
At one point during Monday's morning practice, Flacco was picked off by cornerback Fabian Washington when the second-year signal caller tried to slip the ball into a tight window and corner Chris Carr* *tipped it into Washington's timely hands.
Flacco clapped his hands and shouted a frustrated expletive in disgust as the starting offense's drive from the 35-yard line was cut short after a three-and-out.
The Ravens, however, remain undaunted by Flacco's performance.
"Well, it's training camp," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I think the point is that we're throwing a lot of stuff at him. We don't build our installs around building a guy's confidence. We just try to throw everything at guys from Day One, and we don't care how good a side looks or how bad a side looks or if a guy has a good day or a bad day.
"We think it all makes him better because we're going to try to improve from one day to the next. So, we want to put as much pressure on Joe as we can just like all the guys. If he throws picks, he's going to learn from them. If he makes good throws, the defense is going to learn from that. So, we just challenge him every day."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron almost encourages Flacco to take some risks with the football – as long as Flacco understands that he must utilize those experiences to understand more about his receivers and what he can and cannot execute in the passing game.
"I'd be concerned if he weren't throwing some interceptions, because now's the time to test your limits," Cameron explained. "The only way your quarterback can grow is to try to squeeze some balls in at this time of year to find the limits – find the limits of the receiver, find the limits of the defender, find the limits of your protection.
"Then, as the season approaches, and obviously it starts to change. Now, if he's doing it every snap, which he's not doing that, [I'd be concerned]. But that's the only way I know."
While Flacco may surrender an interception – or a few – in practice, his confidence seems to remain intact.
He has been much more vocal in training camp. If one of the Ravens' young receivers runs the wrong route, Flacco is quick to correct him. On tough completions, Flacco makes sure to reinforce the play with praise.
And if an interception does occur, Flacco's self-criticism makes it obvious that he holds himself to a higher standard a year after throwing 14 touchdowns to 12 interceptions as a rookie.
Cameron recalled a similar situation from his days coaching Philip Rivers, one of the NFL's best young arms, with the San Diego Chargers.
"I remember Philip Rivers throwing four [interceptions] in a row one day, and I remember [then-Chargers head coach] Marty Schottenheimer coming over saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" Cameron reminisced with a laugh. "And I said, 'Coach, that's the best thing that can happen to this kid.' Then, he came back and responded with a touchdown, and I still had a job. So, two good things came of that.
"But that's what we believe. You've got to test those limits now, because two weeks from now, now you're pulling off some of those throws and moving along in the production."
When the Ravens open their preseason this Thursday against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium, Cameron wants to see more secure passing statistics from Flacco.
It will be Flacco's first live action against a non-Ravens opponent, and even though the outcome doesn't count against the regular-season record, it will offer insight into the offense's development.
"First of all, you want to command the offense, and I think he has a great command of our offense," said Cameron. "In the preseason, I want to throw completions. That could be up the field [or] underneath. I want to see completions inside the numbers, up the field, sideline to sideline. That's what we're going to try to do this preseason.
"For us to improve our offense, we've got to throw the football better. Obviously, it starts with the quarterback."