Much of the discussion around the Ravens this offseason has focused on the arrival of an exciting rookie class headlined by quarterback Lamar Jackson, or the complete makeover of the team’s receiving corps.
Baltimore has all kinds of new toys on offense, and that’s made for a fun two months of offseason practice. But even with all the enticing new pieces, what’s most important for the Ravens still hasn’t changed.
And that’s starting quarterback Joe Flacco.
The 11-year veteran had a strong offseason, and the fact that he’s healthy this year might be the most significant storyline going into the 2018 season.
“To me, it’s probably the major, No. 1 observation of the offseason,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “His health – the quarterback’s health – leads to everything else developing.”
Flacco has dealt with the effects of significant injuries in each of the last three seasons. A torn ACL cost him the final six games of the 2015 season. He played every game the next year, but his mobility was limited in the early part of the season. A back injury then cost him all of last year’s training camp and the preseason, again limiting his movement in the early part of the year.
Those issues seemed like a distant memory during offseason practices, as Flacco moved without restriction and looked much more fluid than past years. He threw the ball well and also didn’t hesitate to run more than he has in past years.
“I think the thing that has really been showing up this camp and during these OTAs is just the movement – extending plays and stepping up in the pocket,” Flacco said. “And not just stepping up in the pocket, but scrambling out and making plays on the run.”
Having Flacco healthy has been critical as he’s quickly gone to work developing chemistry with the new receiving corps. Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown have all shown signs of clicking with their new quarterback, which is imperative as the Ravens look to get their passing game back on track.
“We have a new receiving corps. Obviously, those guys are going to be pivotal going forward,” Harbaugh said. “The fact that your quarterback is out there, he’s healthy, and he’s playing well, and he’s on target, he’s throwing the ball well, he’s running the offense – [that] allows everything else to develop.
“If you don’t have your quarterback out there, everything else kind of stagnates. I don’t think you get as much out of the offseason or training camp as you would.”