Respect For Joe Flacco Inside Ravens Locker Room Is Clearly Evident
Anybody who questions Joe Flacco's leadership ability (or his lack of personality) needs to watch the reaction of his teammates during his post-game speech after the Ravens' comeback win over Cleveland.
"I'm proud to be around this group of men – a bunch of bosses right there," Flacco said, inciting cheers in the locker room, teammates yelling out "JOE" and Eric Weddle patting him on the shoulder.
"Bosses on three. 1-2-3, 'BOSSES!' Flacco yelled with the booming chant of the entire team behind him.
Joe Cool isn't your typical "Ra! Ra!" cheerleader or motivational speaker like Ray Lewis was. The nine-year veteran doesn't want, and isn't trying, to be like that. He has his own brand of leadership that also captures his teammates' attention.
Newcomer Mike Wallace was open about the reason he decided to sign with the Ravens this offseason: he respected Flacco's arm and thought it could help revive his career. So far it has worked, as Wallace has three touchdowns – all of the Ravens touchdowns so far – in two games.
But Wallace has come to respect more than just Flacco's cannon.
"This is a guy who stands tall, 6-foot-6 the whole time, no matter who's coming in his face," Wallace said after Sunday's game. "For a guy like me, that makes me want to make a play because we have a quarterback who is supposed to be fragile. He just came off an ACL. He's going to sit in there and take shots. Who am I not to go and make plays?
"Joe doesn't have to say much. But when he does, you should listen, because he says some wise things.* *I love every time he talks, because I know he's going to say some stuff that brings him out of his own character just to get people fired up. And I love it."
Yup, people are listening, including Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman after Flacco campaigned for deeper passing in Sunday's game. The change jump-started the offense with deep passes to Dennis Pitta, Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman and Wallace that set up several of Baltimore's scoring drives.
Flacco's comeback performance had good timing. Last week, his teammates bought and distributed ELITE T-shirts with their quarterback's face plastered on them similar in style to President Barack Obama's "Hope" poster.
"We always talk about Joe Flacco having an even-keeled personality, but you could tell how fired up he was after the win, complimenting his teammates for being a 'bunch of freaking men' in coming back," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "No matter their deficiencies, the Ravens always have a chance with him at the helm."
Added CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown: "For the first five years of his career, Flacco played with Ravens legends Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and he allowed them and other veterans to set the emotional pulse for the team. Now Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs remain the loudest voices in the locker room, but when Flacco speaks, players listen."
More Vocal Leaders Stepping Up
Just as Flacco deserves his due being a vocal leader during the Ravens' run of 25 unanswered points Sunday, there were other key figures that also stepped up to the plate.
"If there's concern about the Ravens not having enough vocal leaders, there shouldn't be," wrote Brown. "Plenty of voices spoke up when the Ravens were getting their doors blown off Sunday."
Brown saw Smith get fired up on the sideline, throwing down his helmet at one point. Linebacker C.J. Mosley and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees were also credited for bringing a calm presence to the defense after the unit gave up three first-quarter touchdowns.
Mosley said he was thinking of long-time Ravens Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks, who would not have been happy with the early defensive performance, especially the 85-yard touchdown run from the Browns' Isaiah Crowell.
"We were definitely emotional, we definitely wanted to win this game for him," Mosley said. "I know he's resting in peace, but I'm pretty sure he was MF-ing us too. I know he was pissed off. We did a great job after that first quarter."
Moving down from the coaches' booth to the sideline, Pees was able to gather his defensive players and had a calming influence over the group, saying there was plenty of time to correct their mistakes.
"He wasn't very fired up," Mosley said. "He told us to stay calm and let the game come to us. When we get down like that, you feel like you have to go and make the extra play. On one play, we were in a zone drop, and we bit on a checkdown, and he got behind us. That's all he said. He said to just stay calm and play our game. Once we got the momentum going, the rest was history."
Ravens Ranked Dead Last Among 2-0 Teams
The Ravens are one of eight teams that have started the season a perfect 2-0, but there are still plenty out there who doubt how good Baltimore actually is. Their "ugly" wins over the Bills and Browns – two teams not expected to reach the playoffs – are the cause for skepticism.
"We won't schedule parades in September, but the fast starts provide a chance to get an early read on which unbeaten teams pass the ‘for real’ test,” wrote ESPN's Mike Sando.
Sando ranked the eight unbeaten teams, and the Ravens are listed dead last behind the Patriots, Steelers, Broncos, Texans, Vikings, Giants and Eagles.
Based on the way the Ravens' schedule lays out, with games against last year's playoff teams not coming until November (except for Washington in Week 5), it may be awhile before Baltimore can convince outsiders that they're a legit contender.
"Beating Buffalo and Cleveland (after trailing the Browns 20-2) doesn't move the needle much. Winning at Jacksonville this coming week won't either," Sando wrote. "The season's final month will speak loudly. The Ravens visit New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati during a four-week stretch beginning Dec. 12."
Elvis Dumervil Could Be A Boon To Solid Pass Rush
Head Coach John Harbaugh said there's a chance that outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil could play in Sunday's Week 3 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A good indication will be whether Dumervil returns to practice Wednesday, but even then it won't be guaranteed.
There's no doubt that getting back Dumervil – the team's sack leader over the last two seasons – will be a major boon to the Ravens' pass rush. He needs just four sacks to hit the 100-sack milestone for his career. His 96 sacks rank second among active players since 2006.
The Ravens have held their own without Dumervil.
As ESPN's Jamison Hensley points out, the Ravens have five sacks through two games, and only six other teams have notched more.
"The Ravens are eager for Dumervil and rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (strained medial collateral ligament in left knee) to return, but at least they're not dealing with the severity of injuries that the Browns are wading through," wrote Edward Lee.
After Beating Up Josh McCown, Ravens Respect QB's Toughness
The Ravens didn't report any serious injuries coming out of the Browns win, but they certainly did damage to their opponent.
"The Ravens hit Browns quarterback Josh McCown early and often Sunday, and the result left McCown unavailable for Week 3, and perhaps longer," wrote Brown.
After already losing starting quarterback Robert Griffin III to a shoulder injury, McCown was hit eight times by the Ravens defense, including getting pancaked by defensive tackle Michael Pierce. After the hit, McCown went to the locker room and was questionable to return, but made his way back out on to the field with his shoulder looking limp.
After the game, McCown explained how important it was for him to return, and his words left an impact on safety Eric Weddle.
Fantasy Alert: Dennis Pitta Is On Fire
For all you fantasy buffs, Pro Football Focus notes that Dennis Pitta is the only tight end that topped double-digit targets so far in Week 2.
Suffice it to say, he might be a smart pickup … if he's available in your league.
"After a somewhat slow start in Week 1, Pitta put up a big stat line on Sunday with nine catches on 11 targets for 102 yards," wrote PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe "He nearly doubled up the next-most-targeted receiver, as Mike Wallace saw six targets on the day. Pitta is making an unlikely return to the field after missing nearly the last two full seasons with a hip injury. His last full season came in 2012 when he finished as fantasy's No. 7 tight end. He's currently tied for 10th among tight ends in fantasy scoring following Sunday's performance. If he can remain healthy, Pitta has the capability to put up back-end TE1 numbers."
Still convinced Kenneth Dixon is the featured back upon his return. — Brian Bower (@sportguyRSR) September 19, 2016