Joe Flacco Playing 'Average' So Far This Season
If you ask former Ravens linebacker and CSNMidAtlantic.com analyst Brad Jackson, quarterback Joe Flacco has been playing "average" football this season.
If you ask analytical website Pro Football Focus (PFF), the nine-year veteran has been worse than average, especially in Sunday's the 27-23 loss to the New York Giants.
Flacco's overall minus-4.9 grade from PFF was the lowest of any player from either team playing at MetLife Stadium Sunday. It was also the fourth-worst quarterback performance in the league last week, only ahead of the Raiders' Derek Carr (minus-5.0), the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick (minus-5.1) and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (minus-5.6).
"If ever proof were needed that a 300-yard passing game was not proof positive of a stellar performance by a quarterback, this was it," wrote PFF's Ben Stockwell.
Both Stockwell and Jackson pointed to some of Flacco's missed passes during the game as a reason for his tough outing, and two were specifically named. The first was an overthrow to Dennis Pitta in the fourth quarter with nine minutes, 31 seconds left when the tight end got open, but Flacco threw the ball out of the back as pressure was bearing down.
The second overthrow to wide receiver Mike Wallace was harder to swallow because there was no obvious pressure on Flacco and the Giants secondary seemed to miss that Wallace was even on the field. He was wide open with nobody in coverage, but the ball was thrown over his head. Had the pass been completed and Wallace ran out of bounds, the Ravens likely would have had a first down inside the 10-yard line with about 10 seconds left to take a couple shots at the end zone, instead of taking the final two shots from the 24- and 29-yard lines.
Jackson believes part of the problem is that Flacco has been so beaten up behind an injury-riddled offensive line that "he's got that internal clock that we as defensive players love to put on quarterbacks because now they start rushing."
For the season, Flacco has been hit 46 times and sacked 13 times, which is tied for ninth most in the NFL. Jackson said the line is like "Swiss cheese you buy at the grocery store."
Still, you can't put all the blame on the unit. According to PFF, the makeshift offensive line "exceeded expectations" Sunday with three players filling in for the regular starters. On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh also praised the line for its play.
"Flacco was under pressure on 38 percent of his dropbacks but actually performed marginally worse when he wasn't pressured," wrote Stockwell. "Flacco's passer rating was 74.4 when under pressure, compared to 73.6 when he wasn't pressured; his yards per attempt took an even sharper drop, from 9.1 under pressure to 4.9 without pressure."
Flacco is the overall 24th-graded quarterback by PFF through six weeks of the season.
The offensive line can play better. A consistent complementary rushing attack can also help Flacco. And, he's still got that brace on his knee, a reminder that he's coming off ACL surgery. That said, the Ravens, and even Flacco himself, would like to see more.
"[H]e's the franchise quarterback," Jackson said. "They pay him the money to not be average. And he's been average thus far this entire season."
Potential Return Of Former Ravens Reciever
There's a possibility that the Ravens could reunite with a receiver they cut ties with earlier this season.
Baltimore reached an injury settlement with Michael Campanaro on Sept. 12 after the former River Hill high school standout landed on injured reserve (calf). The hope at the time of the split was to bring Campanaro back during the second half of the season, according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
The possibility for a reunion must wait nine weeks, which means Campanaro could come back by Nov. 7, the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers game, per Zrebiec.
It's not exactly clear where Campanaro would fit in if the Ravens re-signed him, as they have an already crowded receiving corps. Last year's receiving leader, Kamar Aiken, hadn't even seen many snaps until veteran Steve Smith Sr. went down with an ankle injury, but Smith is expected to return.
"[Campanaro] could fill a need for the Ravens, who have struggled in their return game," wrote Zrebiec. "Veteran Devin Hester Sr. fumbled in back-to-back weeks, losing one of them, and he missed Sunday's [game] to the New York Giants with a thigh injury."
It's hard to see Campanaro taking over return duties unless injuries continue to be a factor. Hester has been hampered by a hamstring injury the last couple of weeks.
The 2014 seventh-round pick has always shown flashes of potential, but injuries of his own have derailed his progress each time he seems to heat up. If the Ravens don't re-sign him, it sounds like there are other potential suitors.
"Campanaro is currently free to sign with any team, and 15 organizations, including the Steelers, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, have expressed interest in working him out," reported Zrebiec.
Jets Keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick As Starting QB Despite Benching Last Night
Baltimore had the opportunity to watch next week's opponent on Monday Night Football, and must have been encouraged by what it saw.
The New York Jets (1-5) dropped their fourth-straight game, this time to the Arizona Cardinals, and pulled their starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, in the process. Down by three-plus scores with about 8:20 left in the game, the Jets sent in backup Geno Smith.
The 2013 second-round pick didn't fare much better as he fumbled (recovered by the Jets) and threw a game-sealing interception on the next play. The Cardinals won, 28-3.
Just because the Jets pulled Fitzpatrick, who leads the league with 11 picks this season, doesn't mean he won't suit up against the Ravens.
"If the Ravens don't win next Sunday [against the Jets], they probably won't make the playoffs," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker.
"I know that seems like a drastic thing to say in October when the rest of the AFC North isn't exactly lighting it up either. But we can't forget how backloaded the Ravens' schedule is, with two games each against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals and trips to Dallas and Foxborough, Mass."
Ravens Searching For Playmaker Like Odell Beckham Jr.
One of the things the Ravens' struggling but improving offense could use right now is a playmaker.
CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown says to look no further than the Ravens' opponent last week to see what a true playmaker looks like.
"The Ravens need more of their playmakers stepping up the way Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stepped up for the Giants on Sunday," he wrote. "Consider that Beckham had 211 yards receiving in the second half Sunday. … Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman has 172 yards receiving the entire season."
"Do the Ravens have enough playmakers to become the offensive team they expected to be? They have 11 games to find out. But if the Ravens miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, they need to take another hard look at their roster, to figure out why they struggle to produce the kind of big plays that are being made against them."
Ravens Show Off Costumes At Gridiron Halloween Party
This might be my favorite event of the year: the Goodwill Gridiron Halloween party.
Different Ravens players host the event each year, and I love seeing them in costume. We got a peek at last night's event via social media. How cute is Dennis Pitta's oldest son, Decker?!
We will post a full photo gallery later this afternoon, so be sure to check it out.