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'Great Things' Expected From Joe Flacco In 2014


The NFL adage is that the quarterback gets too much credit when his team wins and too much blame when they lose.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco has taken his fair share of blame after the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time during his six-year career.

But there's a lot more to the offense's struggles than Flacco's career-high 22 interceptions and career-low 73.1 quarterback rating.

"I think Joe deserves the benefit of the doubt," Owner Steve Bisciotti said at the NFL owners meetings. "We saw the progression for five years. He has a down year, he throws a lot of picks. But Joe historically didn't throw a lot of picks.

"He's dealing with Marlon Brown, and [Dennis] Pitta is gone and Anquan [Boldin] is gone. He's got Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. With all brand new targets, that's going to happen. I certainly look at last year as an aberration. I expect to see great things from Joe."

In terms of personnel, Flacco should (barring injury) have a lot more stability around him this season. Pitta is back. So are wide receivers Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brown.

He's even got a new toy in wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., who should greatly help in making tough third-down catches and working the short, intermediate and middle of the field.

The biggest change for Flacco will be in systems. The offense received new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's playbook about a week ago. Head Coach John Harbaugh said that after studying it for the last couple months, he believes it will fit Flacco "very well."

Now it's a matter of practicing the system and getting everybody on the same page.

According to Harbaugh, via conversations with Torrey Smith, Flacco has planned a throwing session with his receivers. Harbaugh heard that they're trying to work out the dates and locations.

"Joe's got to get that worked out. That's up to him to do," Harbaugh said. "I'll be looking forward to seeing how it goes. It is important. It's big."

Harbaugh shares Bisciotti's outlook on the expectations.

"The expectations are high for Joe," he said. "They always are. They were high last year."

But Harbaugh doesn't want to compare this year to last.

"It doesn't matter about last year. Joe's responsibility is to learn from it and he learned from every mistake, he learned from every game," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh added that because of the offensive line's struggles, Flacco became a better playmaker on extended plays. He was better when scrambling around. Harbaugh also said his mechanics, progressions and understanding of protections and defenses also improved.

"I think his overall knowledge of the game is getting into that neighborhood where you want to see that veteran quarterback, a six-, seven-, eight-year guy," Harbaugh said. "Now, he's got to take that knowledge and apply it to our offense and to the system that Coach Kubiak is going to bring in."

Harbaugh shifted the focus off Flacco. The Ravens didn't place 29th in total offense last year because of one player. "I'm excited about the kind of year that Joe can have next year, but really, it's not just Joe," Harbaugh said. "It's all of us. We all have to be better."

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