Joe Flacco is a traditional pocket passer.
He has a huge arm and he’d much rather push the ball upfield with a deep pass instead of trying to make plays with his feet.
But the 11-year veteran has incorporated more mobility to his game during Baltimore’s spring practices. He demonstrated more movement within the pocket to extend plays and he showed more willingness to take off and run.
“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 at the conclusion of last week’s minicamp. “And not just stepping up in the pocket, but scrambling out and making plays on the run.”
Flacco’s improved mobility coincides with a few significant factors – his improved health, the arrival of Quarterbacks Coach James Urban and the incorporation of more quarterback-designed runs into the offense.
Flacco dealt with a back injury last summer that cost him all of training camp and then hindered him early in the year. In 2016, he was still working his way back from a torn ACL, and the Ravens didn’t want to put him at any additional risk by putting him on the move.
Those injuries seemed like a distant memory during spring practices, as Flacco moved without limitation and threw the ball very well.
“Joe’s incredibly athletic,” Urban said. “I will tell you that he’s healthy and that – knock on wood – that’s been crucial to us this whole offseason. I think he’s done a tremendous job of getting his body into great shape before he started, and he’s worked tremendously hard since he’s been here.”
Adding Urban to the staff gives Flacco a dedicated quarterbacks coach for the first time since Marty Mornhinweg moved into the offensive coordinator role in 2016. Urban has focused on helping to improve mechanics, particularly when it comes to footwork.
“I probably placed a big emphasis on mobility, movement within the pocket, footwork timing,” Urban said. “But the ability to push up and slide, find passing lanes, buy time, all of that has been a big emphasis. I’m not sure that is was or wasn’t emphasized in the past, but that’s where I go pretty quickly.”
Urban and Mornhinweg both have experience working with mobile quarterbacks, and the arrival of first-round pick Lamar Jackson has led to the coaching staff getting creative with the quarterbacks. They’ve added more of running element to the position, in addition to experimenting with Flacco and Jackson on the field together.
Flacco impressed with his legs and his arm this offseason, and that has the Ravens eager to see what he can do in 2018.