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Joe Flacco Trying To Gel With Revolving Targets


Turnover is an inevitable fact of the NFL. Players come and players go, and adjustments are made.

But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is dealing with an unenviable amount of change early in his post-Super Bowl MVP campaign.

There haven't been just offseason changes. There have been alterations in the middle and end of training camp. And now, leading up to the Week 2 home opener against Cleveland, the Ravens have pushed through another round.

When Flacco looks out to who he's throwing to, it's almost entirely new faces.

Besides Torrey Smith, Ed Dickson and Tandon Doss, the Ravens don't have another receiver or tight end working prominently in the offense that Flacco threw to last year.

That could in part explain why Flacco has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start this season.

Flacco threw four interceptions in three preseason games. He followed it up with two picks in the regular-season opener in Denver. Considering that he only threw 10 all last season, he's a fifth of the way to matching that already. Flacco heaved a career-high 62 passes in Denver and completed just 34 (54.8 percent).

Flacco doesn't like to make excuses, but even he admitted that the turnover has made his job more challenging so far this season.

"I'm sure it has, but what are you going to do?" Flacco said. "It's the way it is. That's the way this league is. You just have to embrace it and take it on as a challenge and try to make it work the best you can."

Flacco lost one* *of his favorite targets (especially in the postseason) from last year when wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco. Then his other favorite and the man who was set to fill the hole vacated by Boldin, tight end Dennis Pitta, suffered a major hip injury at the beginning of training camp.

The Ravens and Flacco turned to their young receivers, counting on them to step up after not seeing much offensive action the past couple years.

But Thompson suffered a foot injury that knocked him out of nearly the entire preseason. Doss, LaQuan Williams and Tommy Streeter were cut in favor of rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette.

Flacco couldn't even keep that group for more than a week. The team's No. 2 wideout, Jacoby Jones, suffered a knee sprain in the season opener that will reportedly leave him sidelined for four to six weeks. Mellette has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. The Ravens re-signed Doss.

Thus, the Ravens passing game is still very much in the process of gelling. Flacco said it's something the Ravens will constantly be working towards, and that they've just got to be "the best we can be."

"I think when you bring in guys, you're so focused on the big things of making sure everybody knows what route to run, making sure everyone is lining up quickly, and just getting the calls and everything, that the little things just take a little bit of time," Flacco said.

The little things can make a big difference.

When looking at Flacco's interceptions from the Denver game, Head Coach John Harbaugh said they are technique issues. He said it comes down to Flacco being on the same page with receivers in terms of the routes and their precise angles.

On Flacco's first interception, cornerback Chris Harris undercut Stokley's out pattern for a diving interception. On the second, Flacco's pass intended for running back Ray Rice was stepped in front of by linebacker Danny Trevathan.

"It takes a while," Stokley said. "It really does. Usually you have the whole offseason, you have training camp to get comfortable with each other. But we don't have that. We're working extra hard at practice and in meetings to try to get comfortable with each other. … Hopefully towards the end we won't be missing any beats."

While the group needs to collectively come together, much of it falls on Flacco's shoulders. After signing Flacco to a then-record breaking contract, he's even more responsible for taking control of the offense and elevating those around him.

Harbaugh was asked whether Flacco's leadership and handle of the offense allowed the team to usher in a bunch of new pass catchers this season.

"That's definitely a part of it," Harbaugh said. "You feel like Joe will bring those guys along and train those guys and those kinds of things."

Flacco agreed with the trust the front office has placed in him to still succeed with the changing faces.

"That's the name of the game when you're a quarterback in this league," Flacco said. "You want your organization to be able to do that, and you have to prove that you can adapt to whatever is necessary to win football games, and that's what we're trying to do."

When Flacco looks out at who to throw to Sunday afternoon against Cleveland, he'll have Smith, Brown, Stokley, Doss, Dickson and Clark as his options, besides the running backs. They've caught a collective 212 passes from Flacco, and Smith and Dickson account for 190.

So how good does Flacco feel going into Sunday's game?

"I'm as comfortable as I need to be," he said. "We all are. We're playing a game in four, five days [or] whatever it is, so we're ready to go."

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