Flacco Bulking Up, On Mission To Prove He's No Fluke
Something about Joe Flacco struck Sal Paolantonio when the ESPN reporter visited Ravens practice this week.
It appeared Flacco was bigger.
Turns out, Flacco has hit the weight room and put on seven pounds of muscle mass, most of which seemed to be gained in his upper body, according to Sal. After playing at 245 pounds last year, he is now at 252.
That's a far cry from the string-bean Flacco the Ravens drafted in 2008 when he stood in at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds.
And after turning in one of the most historic stretches of any quarterback in NFL history during the Ravens' Super Bowl run, Paolantonio reported that Flacco is on a mission to prove last season wasn't "a fluke."
It's unclear why Flacco has put on the weight, or whether it will affect his performance at all. Perhaps it will make it harder for defenders to bring him down, or strengthen what is already one of the strongest arms in the NFL.
For ESPN's Steven A. Smith, the added bulk is practically meaningless.
"To me, Joe Flacco putting on pounds – what does that mean?" he asked. "That you're preparing yourself to take more punishment? Is that something that we're supposed to look forward to watching you? I mean, that really doesn't make that much sense to me. So I'm not buying it, I'm not sold on it, I'm not enamored with it or excited about it.
"It is what it is. He put on seven pounds. All that shows me is that you spent some time in the weight room and you weren't sitting at home eating cereal and getting fat. That's about it, but it doesn't tell me what you're going to do as a quarterback to be honest with you."
As for whether Flacco can prove his post-season performance wasn't a fluke, as usual, Flacco has his doubters.
Combine the losses on defense with Flacco's new contract and ring, and Skip Bayless says the pressure will be too great for the six-year veteran to overcome.
"I do not think he will be better," Bayless said. "I think there will be more pressure and expectations than ever on Joe Flacco. I don't think he has any idea yet just how much now that he got the franchise quarterback contract. He is now the face of the franchise without Ray Lewis, without Ed Reed, without a shut-down defense. I think the defense will struggle early next year – more pressure than ever on Flacco to outscore opponents and I'm just not sure he'll live up to it."
Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel believes Flacco could have his best season yet in 2013, and give five reasons to support his prediction.
1) His comfort with new Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell.
2) Continuity along the offensive line, which was a "revolving door" last season.
3) He's in his physical prime.
4) The development of playmakers, including receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta.
5) "The monkey's off his back" because he won the Super Bowl.
Flacco 5th-Quickest Trigger In 2012
Joe Flacco was the fifth-quickest to get the ball out of his hands among qualifying NFL quarterbacks last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
He got rid of the ball in less than 2.5 seconds on 54.5 percent of 310 passing plays in 2012. That was better than 2011, when he released the ball in less than 2.5 seconds on 52.6 percent of 303 passing plays. Only two sacks were Flacco's "fault" by not getting rid of the ball fast enough, according to PFF.
"Honestly, the fact that Flacco got the ball out so quickly was actually a little surprising, as the Ravens were among the league-leaders in 20-plus-yard passing plays throughout the entire season," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel. "Not all of those big plays happened after Flacco waited a few seconds to chuck a deep ball down the field, but Cam Cameron's offense did have deep ties, literally, to Don Coryell's vertical passing attack.
"[T]hat quicker trigger seemed to pay off in the playoffs. Seven of Flacco's record-tying 11 touchdowns passes, by my count, came on throws he made less than 2.5 seconds after the snap."
Pierce A Potential Breakout Fantasy Player
ESPN's KC Joyner is on the lookout for second-year players who could have a big statistical season and breakout fantasy year in 2013.
Leading his list is Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce. But Pierce's value will depend a lot on how the Ravens divide up the workload between him and starter Ray Rice.
"Moving carries away from Rice might seem like a low-percentage proposition, but consider what history tells us about high-volume workloads," wrote Joyner.
"Rice has been in the league for five seasons and has racked up 1,534 touches, an average of just over 300 touches per season. He may continue at that rush/reception level, but the historical evidence is such that the Ravens have to consider whether that is a pace they want the 5-foot-8, 212-pound Rice to continue. That mindset is supported by the productivity numbers indicating the Ravens should be giving more carries to Pierce."
Lardarius Webb Got Married! (Photos)
Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is doing more than just rehabbing his torn ACL this offseason.
He also found time to get married!
Below are some pictures he posted on Instagram. Lookin' good, Webby. And Congrats!
It's Ravens Mt. Rushmore nomination time [ProFootballTalk.com] * @A_Mellette3: Done with the last OTA this week.. Now time to head home for #graduation [Twitter] * @JawsGolf: Joe (@teamflacco) chipping on #9 at ACCC [Twitter] * @TorreySmithWR: RT @rnavene: @TorreySmithWR did anyone hazed u in ur rookie yr?...nope they focus on winning not playing mind games with folks* *[Twitter] * @BaltSunSports: Ravens Insider: Ravens' Omar Brown, Bobby Rainey sign exclusive-rights tenders [Twitter] * Head Coach John Harbaugh gave a pep talk to Stevenson University men's lacrosse team as they prepare for the @NCAADIII championship game.