While it seems like yesterday that a young Joe Flacco was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, he's already heading into his eighth season as an NFL quarterback.
He's a seasoned, mature veteran and the leader of one of the winningest pro football franchises over the last decade. Flacco is the Super Bowl XLVII MVP and has the most playoff wins of any NFL quarterback since he entered the league in 2008.
Last season, he had his best statistical outing yet, putting up 3,986 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. Nobody wants to see those numbers regress even if Flacco has his fourth coordinator in four years. In fact, the hope is that he gets even better and breaks the 4,000-yard milestone.
When asked about what he'll do to better his game in 2015, Flacco didn't say a single thing about stats, wins or any accolades, such as getting a Pro Bowl nod for the first time.
Instead, he named three specific goals:
1) Stay healthy
2) Maintain strong communication with his OC Marc Trestman
3) Work on his footwork
It doesn't sound all that riveting, but if Flacco can accomplish those three things, there's a good chance everything else will fall into place.
"The biggest thing – I'm going into Year 8 – is just keeping my body physically healthy and going out there and allowing myself the best chance to be there for my team each week," Flacco said during mandatory camp last month. "I would say [it's about] just making sure I'm ready to go and can stay healthy through another season."
Flacco's durability may be taken for granted in Baltimore.
A grueling 16-game NFL season can take its toll on an athlete's body, yet Flacco has never missed a start in 127 career games. His team has always been able to rely on him, and he wants to continue that trend in 2015.
If you're not healthy, you're not on the field. Simple as that. Flacco wants to be on the field.
Next on the list is continuing to build his rapport with Trestman.
"Working with Marc is going to be a new thing," Flacco said. "So just keeping that communication as good as it has been right now [is important]."
That doesn't mean Flacco is worried about working with yet another new coordinator. He said he expects a revolving door at the position because a coordinator's goal, generally speaking, is to become a head coach. He also isn't worried about the offense under Trestman due to its similarity to the system Gary Kubiak implemented last season.
"To me, [a new coordinator is] less of what [the media] probably make of it. I'm very confident in what we do," Flacco said.
Finally, Flacco wants to improve his footwork, specifically tying it to getting the ball out on time. When Kubiak was in Baltimore last year, he worked extensively with Flacco on that timing. Flacco learned how to better tie his footwork to his read progressions, which is particularly important in the West Coast offense the Ravens run.
Trestman is picking up where Kubiak left off in that respect.
"[I'm] just working on my feet constantly," the franchise quarterback said. "Trying to make sure I keep them quick and constantly thinking about it and how it's going to match up in the passing game [will be important]. When I'm in the shotgun, a lot of that changes, so once again, thinking about how that's going to match up to getting the ball out on time [is important].
"You're always learning new ways to protect things up, when to throw hot, so a lot of conceptual things and what's the best thing to do [is what I need to focus on]. I think the communication between me and Marc is going to help out a lot on that."