The Flacco Top-10 Debate Is Alive
Maybe this is why Head Coach John Harbaugh felt the need to strongly speak out in support of his "superstar" quarterback Joe Flacco during Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
Every time you think the Flacco debate is cooling off, it's right back on ESPN.com's NFL front page.
Yup, the ESPN AFC North crew, plus Dan Graziano (see video below), answered the age-old question of whether Flacco belongs on the top-10 NFL quarterbacks list.
Two of the other three AFC North team reporters believe Flacco deserves a spot on the list. The only vote against him came from Browns reporter Pat McManamon, who may be skewed by not seeing a very good quarterback in Cleveland for quite some time (just kidding!).
McManamon: "Flacco was 16th in quarterback rating last season but eighth in Total QBR. That sums up his status as right near the top 10 but not quite there. The best way to answer is to go down the list. Brady, Peyton Manning, [Andrew] Luck and [Aaron] Rodgers are in a class of their own. [Ben] Roethlisberger is close, and [Tony] Romo has been outstanding. There's the top six. The next four come from a large group that includes [Drew] Brees, [Philip] Rivers, [Russel] Wilson, [Matt] Ryan, Cam Newton and Flacco. I put Rivers, Wilson, Newton and Brees as the seven through 10. Which puts Flacco 11th, just out of the top 10."
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler has seen firsthand what Flacco can do, particularly in the playoffs. He saw Flacco take out the Steelers in last year's wild-card round.
Fowler points out that Flacco's 88.6 quarterback rating in the playoffs is higher than Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, and Flacco's 2.5 touchdown-to-interception ratio is better than Manning, Roethlisberger and Tom Brady by a wide margin.
Fowler: "Yes, yes and yes. Make a case for six to eight quarterbacks better than Flacco and I will listen. But I'm not buying 10. … He doesn't always light up the regular season, but he spends that time figuring out what works in the playoffs. If I needed 10 quarterbacks to win 10 games, Flacco would make the list."
The argument against Flacco's winning always seems to be that he's been aided by the Ravens' trademark defense. Well, Cincinnati reporter Coley Harvey takes that on.
Harvey: "True, having Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs helped. But weren't the Ravens ranked 17th in total defense in the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl? An elite quarterback was needed to help overcome those defensive woes and still win the Lombardi Trophy."
ESPN's John Clayton got into the mix too, ranking the top quarterbacks for the next three years.
On his list, Flacco currently is duking it out with Eli Manning for the No. 10 spot in 2015. But Clayton has Flacco, who is entering his eighth season, on the upward trend. Clayton projects Flacco at No. 8 in 2016 and No. 7 in 2017.
One thing is for sure. Flacco absolutely lit it up at Ravens OTAs and minicamp this month.
While there is chatter outside Baltimore, The Sun's Mike Preston said "the best thing to say about Joe Flacco is that there is nothing to say about Joe Flacco"
Last year, there were questions about whether Flacco could adapt to a new West Coast system. There was invalid criticism that he needed to spend time with his receivers outside of team camps.
Well, Preston saw a quarterback that was "professional as ever" and who "probably spent more time working with receivers than at any other time of his career." He saw Flacco getting along well with new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman.
"As he is about to enter his eighth season in which he has started every game of his career, there aren't any concerns about Joe Flacco," Preston concluded. "Absolutely none."
Ravens Practicing Illegal Formations
This spring, league owners changed the rules regarding illegal formations to ban the move the Patriots used in their divisional playoff comeback win over the Ravens.
Well, Harbaugh isn't banking on that always being enforced, so he's taking matters into his own hands.
"We are working on formations – legal formations, illegal formations, unexpected formations," Harbaugh said with a sly grin, per USA Today. "The first time we ran it, you heard [linebacker Terrell] Suggs out there saying, 'That's not legal, that's not legal.'
"We will not assume that the referees are going to understand or always get it right when a formation goes out on the field, so we're working on everything."
Harbaugh tried to get the referees' attention during the Patriots playoff game to inform them they needed to give the Ravens defense adequate time to adjust before the snap. The Patriots declared normally eligible receivers ineligible even though they lined up as receivers.
Concern About Tucker?
If there's one guy Ravens fans haven't had to sweat over during the past three seasons, it's been kicker Justin Tucker.
Tucker has been about as automatic as they come, evidenced by having the all-time best field goal percentage (89.8) among kickers with at least 100 attempts. He has never missed a kick from within 37 yards in the NFL and all five of his misses last year came from 50-plus yards.
But according to The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, Tucker "uncharacteristically" missed a couple field goal attempts within 50 yards during minicamp.
"He probably missed more field goal attempts last week than I've seen him miss in entire training camps," Zrebiec wrote. "I'm not suggesting that he's a concern, but it's certainly worth noting, considering Tucker rarely misses mid-range field goals in practice or games."
Tucker did boom a 67-yard field goal through the uprights on the first day of minicamp, which Steve Smith Sr. pointed out to Owner Steve Bisciotti as the two sides work towards a contract extension. So, yeah, I wouldn't be too worried.
- Is there anybody better to counsel rookies? Running back Justin Forsett will speak at the NFL rookie symposium this week in Aurora, Ohio. Presentations will address player health and safety, decision making, finance, mental health and substance abuse. [CSN Baltimore]
- Inside linebacker Arthur Brown has taken a "big step forward" so far this offseason. Entering his third year, he's more comfortable with the defense. [The Sun]
- Former Ravens Jamal Lewis and Brad Jackson were part of the "Play Like A Raven" football clinic at Williamsport High School. [Your4State.com]