Why Flacco Will Break Into Elite QB Club Under Trestman
The Ravens already think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback.
But under Marc Trestman, maybe the rest of the football world will finally agree.
Despite a Super Bowl MVP honor, an average of 10 wins per season, six postseason appearances in seven years and 10 playoff wins, Flacco is rarely recognized for his individual contributions. He's never broken the 4,000-yard mark and he's never made the Pro Bowl. The closest he got to the NFL All-Star game was when he was chosen as one of the four alternates last season, but he declined the invitation because his wife was due with the couple's third child.
"Despite all of these achievements, Flacco has never truly been perceived as an elite quarterback," wrote ESPN's KC Joyner. "That perception may be on its way to changing due to the hiring of Marc Trestman as the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator.
"Trestman won't have the negative issues from last season in Chicago this time around, and a closer look at Baltimore's offensive situation will illustrate why he should be able to have the kind of impact that vaults Flacco into the ranks of elite NFL passers."
If Trestman can work wonders with Jay Cutler, then it stands to reason that he can do a whole lot more with Flacco. Cutler has a reputation for wildly inconsistent play and his "angry" attitude has been criticized by former teammates. There appears to be more potential in Flacco and a winning culture in Baltimore.
Joyner gives five reasons Trestman can take Flacco's game to the next level.
1. He gets his QBs to take fewer risksBDR. It stands for "bad decision rate" and it measures how often a quarterback makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team. Cutler had the one of the league's worst BDRs, but Trestman was the first coach to get Cutler below a 3.4 percent BDR. Flacco is nowhere near as bad as Cutler (posting a 1.7 percent BDR the last two seasons) but Joyner says the Ravens QB has had issues "staring at receivers and not seeing defenders in passing lanes" and it contributed to 13 of his 23 bad decisions over the last two years.
"Trestman will certainly work to improve Flacco's coverage-reading ability, but if his history with Cutler is any indication, the solution to this problem will also revolve around finding ways to keep Flacco from reading those types of coverages as often [as] he has had to do in the past," Joyner wrote. "If these approaches result in one fewer bad decision every four games, that would be enough to get Flacco at or near the 1.0 percent BDR territory that signifies upper-tier performance in this area."
2. Baltimore has the makings of a superb rushing attackThe Ravens' running game flourished last season with a zone blocking scheme, a strong offensive line and the emergence of Justin Forsett. He led all NFL backs in yards per attempt (5.4) and finished the year among the top 5 with 1,266 rushing yards. "This is important to the Ravens offense as a whole, but it is also important for some of the offensive play-calling aspects a strong rushing game should open up," wrote Joyner.
3. More play-action passes
Last year's strong running attack opened up success on play-action passes, but the Ravens only threw 102 of them, which ranked 23rd in the league, per Joyner. Meanwhile, Chicago's quarterbacks averaged 126 per season with Trestman at the helm.
"[A]nd that was despite Trestman having to scale things back to prevent Cutler's risk-taking from torpedoing the offense," Joyner wrote. "This number will trend upward even if Flacco doesn't improve his BDR, but if his decision-making does get better, look for Trestman to allow Flacco to throw play-action passes even more often."
4. More throwing against loaded defensive fronts
Opponents have to respect Forsett and often times put another defender in the tackle box to stop him. That will lead to even more play-action passing. Baltimore saw 217 plays with loaded defensive fronts, but only threw the ball on 104 of those times. That made the Ravens one of just two teams (Seahawks) that ran more than they passed in such situations.
"Expect Trestman to take full advantage of these opportunities and allow Flacco to put the ball in the air when the opposing team goes all out to stop the ground game," Joyner wrote.
5. More screen passes
Flacco ranked third in the league in yards per attempt on screen passes last year (8.0) but was tied for 21st in screen pass attempts (39). Trestman took the "exact opposite" approach as Cutler led the league in screen passes.
There you have it.
Simply giving Flacco more passing attempts via play-action throws and passes versus loaded defensive fronts and screens, it should be enough to vault him in the elite quarterback club.
"[V]olume will no longer be an issue that holds his candidacy back," wrote Joyner.
"Fair or not, it is almost impossible to be perceived as an elite quarterback in the NFL without throwing for at least 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season. … Add those improved numbers to his postseason success, and it will finally be enough for Flacco to break through the elite quarterback ceiling."
Report: Campanaro Suffers Quad Injury On First Day Of OTAs
There was hope Michael Campanaro could buck his injury issues from last season, but they appear to be back.
The second-year wide receiver suffered a quadriceps injury during the first day of organized team activities (OTAs) Wednesday, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
"A magnetic resonance imaging exam determined that there was a slight tear, but Campanaro won't require surgery and should be able to return by training camp after rehabilitating the injury," Wilson wrote. "The River Hill graduate will not participate in the remainder of the Ravens' offseason practices."
Wednesday's session was closed to the media, and the Ravens have not confirmed the injury.
Campanaro battled hamstring injuries during last season's summer sessions, and he sat out seven games during the regular season because of a hamstring. He is in a tight battle for the No. 3 wide receiver role and he is considered one of the leading candidates for the special teams return duties with Pro Bowler Jacoby Jones gone.
"But to do that, Campanaro will need to stay healthy, something he was unable to do last season," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley says the Ravens have been noncommittal on outright giving Campanaro the returner role because of these reoccurring setbacks.
"Head Coach John] Harbaugh has [subtly made the point that Campanaro has to prove he can stay healthy so the Ravens can count on him for a major role on the team," Hensley wrote.
Should Ravens Allow Webb To Return Kicks? Can DeAndre Carter Do It?
Maybe Campanaro will return in time to win the returner role and hold onto it for the season.
But if he can't stay healthy, two other options include cornerback Lardarius Webb and undrafted rookie DeAndre Carter.
Carter enjoyed a prolific college career at small-school Sacramento State, notching 99 catches for 1,321 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns. But special teams is the more likely road to earning a coveted roster spot. He averaged 23.7 yards on kickoff returns and 12.5 yards per punt return. He also returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown last season.
"It will probably be a big factor in me making the team," Carter told Wilson. "Not just returns, but also being a gunner on punts and running down on kickoffs. Being able to come in and show my ability in that area of the game, hopefully I can get some big plays off in the preseason and help me cement a spot on the team."
Per Wilson, after not being drafted, Carter chose the Ravens over offers from the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers. To sweeten the pot, Wilson reported the Ravens gave Carter a $7,500 signing bonus as part of his three-year contract.
"The coaches really wanted me here," Carter said. "They told me I would have a pretty good chance. I definitely like it here so far. I'm looking forward to spending my career here. Everything is going really smooth. The rookie minicamp went really well and I showed a lot of good things."
Webb has also expressed interest in returning punts, as he has in the past. But in the video below, Hensley wonders if that's a good idea, given the injury history at the cornerback position as a whole and specifically for Webb individually.
Forsett Grateful To Make Top 100 Players List
Forsett is an inspiration to all those NFL bubble players and long-time journeymen.
He's gotten plenty of recognition for his breakout year in Baltimore, but he still shows genuine appreciation and humility for each new honor.
For the first time in his career, Forsett's counterparts around the league voted him into the NFL Network's Top 100 Players list. He came in at No. 65, ahead of teammates who are annually voted into the top 100, including Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs.
After his ranking was announced, Forsett quickly took to Twitter to show his gratitude and was sure to make the point that he plans to continue what he started.
Ravens Edge Rushers Among Top 10 Scariest NFL Positions Groups
When opponents begin gameplan preparation for Baltimore, one of coaches' first discussions likely revolves around the Ravens' edge rushers.
They are downright scary, says NFL Media's Bucky Brooks.
Brooks names the group as the ninth scariest position group in the league.
"The 'old heads' on the edges continue to terrorize opposing quarterbacks throughout the league," wrote Brooks. "Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are on the back nine of their respective careers, but each player knows how to get home off the edge, as evidenced by their 29 combined sacks in 2014.
"Suggs remains one of the most explosive power rushers in the NFL, flashing an array of rugged moves that overpower blockers in one-on-one situations. Dumervil is a dynamic pass rusher with exceptional first-step quickness and burst. He complements his speed rush with a sneaky dip-and-rip maneuver that enables him to slip under blockers off the corner. The Ravens' aggressive scheme creates plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Suggs and Dumervil, and the team's pass rush still ranks as one of the best in the league, despite featuring one player who is 32 (Suggs) and another who is 31 (Dumervil)."