Confident Joe Flacco Creates Buzz with One Sentence
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco provided the most newsworthy moment of training camp thus far when he met with the media Friday afternoon.
"The Ravens quarterback alternated from funny to defiant to optimistic as he spoke for the first time at the start of his 11th training camp in Baltimore," Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker wrote.
During his press conference, Flacco was asked if it would be annoying to have to answer questions during the regular season about quarterback Lamar Jackson, who the Ravens selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
"No, I don't because I think we're going to win and we're not going to hear about it," Flacco said.
Flacco's response not only displayed his mentality heading into this season, but also drew a big media reaction.
"Joe Cool is Joe Confident," WJZ's Mark Viviano said on the channel's weekly Purple Preview Show.
"Defiant Flacco Takes the Lead at Camp," read a Russell Street Report headline.
It was an awesome soundbite that drew some laughs from the media members that were present, but let's remember that everything Flacco does is being carefully analyzed this training camp.
"No other player is being more scrutinized than Flacco in this year's training camp," Russell Street Report’s Todd Karpovich wrote. "Many journalists are doing their best Sigmund Freud imitation, trying to psychoanalyze the veteran quarterback."
This isn't a surprise. It's rare that a Super Bowl MVP quarterback is backed up by an extremely athletic rookie that had an exceptional collegiate career.
Many saw Flacco's comment as a great example of his confidence, which has been backed up by his play on the field during training camp. For the first time in recent years, Flacco is entering training camp with no injury restrictions. He says this is the best he has felt in a while, and his actions are showing it.
"The most observable difference with Flacco this spring and summer has been his mobility as his movement within the pocket has been more fluid and he's looked faster on those rare occasions when he takes off running," WNST’s Luke Jones wrote.
However, after he made his comment, some felt Flacco might be misjudging what Jackson's presence will mean for the Ravens this season. Jackson has a large following, as well as loads of talent.
"The rumblings will always be there, as long as Jackson is healthy," The Big Lead’s Henry McKenna wrote.
All Flacco can control is how he plays. If he does so at a high level, it's been made clear that he'll be the Ravens' starting quarterback this season.
On Sunday, Flacco took the field for the first time since making that comment and continued to show his confidence.
Weddle Reveals He Played 2017 Season With Separated Shoulder
Despite having a standout 2017 campaign that saw him selected to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row, there's reason to believe Eric Weddle can be even better in 2018.
During a Q&A with The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Weddle revealed that he had to persevere through a difficult injury last season.
"You play with a separated shoulder and no one knows, and that's fine," Weddle said. "That's the way I like it, but people think you can't do certain things. It's like, 'Well, what do you think is going to happen if you're only playing with one arm?' You just have to suck it up. That's life. You fight through it."
Weddle is entering the 2018 season without any physical limitations. If he can remain healthy, it's believable that the 33-year-old can improve upon his 2017 season when he finished with 49 tackles and six interceptions.
Weddle certainly has that expectation, and not just for himself. He thinks the Ravens are poised for big improvements in each phase of the game, particularly on defense.
"We have a lot of respect for [former Defensive Coordinator] Dean Pees and what he's done in this league, but I think 'Wink' [Martindale] is going to take us to the next level," Weddle said. "I already see it on a lot of levels within our defense."
Weddle also spoke at length about how difficult the ending to the 2017 was. He said he'll always remember watching Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd running down the field and catching the fourth-and-12 touchdown pass from Andy Dalton, wondering why he was able to get so open.
Holding late leads has been a point of emphasis for the defense this offseason, and Weddle expects the defense to be vastly improved in those situations.
"Not only have we practiced it every day and we have a great plan, we've gone over it over and over again," Weddle said. "I expect us to be one of the best two-minute teams in the league this year. I fully expect us to dominate those situations."
Ravens Could Benefit From Underdog Tag
Not being touted by many pundits as a favorite could be advantageous for the Ravens, according to the Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler.
"The Ravens could sneak up on the Steelers and take the division crown," Schisler wrote. "They could sneak up on everybody."
To Schisler, much of the doubt surrounding the Ravens comes from the team going through so many changes during the offseason. The Ravens have a new defensive coordinator, a brand new receiving corps, and drafted 12 rookies in April.
While many pundits are viewing the changes as reasons why the Ravens won't do well, Schisler sees them in a totally different light.
"The Ravens are betting on a new look offense, and from the looks of things they may win the bet," Schisler wrote. "Baltimore is an underdog, but the Ravens are potentially the most underrated team in the league."
Schisler likes the Ravens' chances of contending for a division crown this season, despite the Steelers winning three of the last four AFC North titles. Even though Pittsburgh won both regular season contests in 2017, he points to the Steelers' narrow 39-38 victory as proof that the gap between the two teams is not as large as some pundits believe.
Schisler points to Head Coach John Harbaugh as more reason for optimism. The team has only suffered one losing season with Harbaugh at the helm, which means improving on last season's 9-7 record is far more likely than it getting worse.
Plus, Schisler also believes playing the role of the underdog isn't just a part the Ravens are accustomed to playing – it's in the organization's DNA.
"It goes back to Super Bowl XXXV when the Ravens weren't supposed to beat the Giants, but they stomped them," Schisler wrote. "It's part of the culture in Baltimore. 'Play like a Raven' means that you play like you have something to prove."
Five Ravens Who've Attracted Attention During Training Camp
After watching three training camp practices, PennLive’s Aaron Kasinitz has identified a handful of players who have made an impact.
WR Chris Moore: Kasinitz has been thoroughly impressed by Moore's start, saying he's "emerged as somewhat of an offensive star in 11-on-11 drills the past few days." It looks like he'll have a role in the offense this season. "He's done well to establish himself as a capable target and a player worthy of a chance to wiggle his way into the team's offensive game plans," Kasinitz wrote.
OLB Matt Judon: After a strong season in which he finished with eight sacks, Judon appears ready to step into a larger role on the defense. "He looks like he's on the verge of making more improvements in his third NFL season."
OLB Tyus Bowser: A second-round pick in last year's draft, Bowser has displayed a quick burst and an ability to get into the backfield. "Bowser's taken advantage of first-team repetitions available while veteran Terrell Suggs rests."
WR Jaleel Scott: Scott, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, has impressed Kasinitz with his route-running ability. Combine that with his size at 6-foot-5 and he's "forcing coaches to think about how they could use his length in the red zone."
CB Anthony Averett: Another fourth-round pick in this year's draft, Averett has performed well while being frequently targeted by quarterbacks during drills. "Baltimore has plenty of depth in the secondary, but Averett can sew up a roster spot and compete for one of the top backup roles."
Check out the full article from Kasinitz to see other players who have stood out to him.
- We've all heard the famous debate surrounding Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: is he, or is he not, elite? The hosts of the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" discussed if the "Is the Elite Joe Flacco Debate," an elite debate.
- Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey made Pro Football Focus' list of 2017 NFL Draft first-round picks that are ready for a big second season.
- · Zrebiec weighs in on who he thinks is moving up on the wide receiver depth chart.