Oh Yeah, Flacco Has Chip On His Shoulder
Go ahead and flip through the first couple pages of Sports Illustrated's 2013 NFL Preview.
Page 1: Robert Griffin III
Page 2: Andrew Luck
Page 3: Russell Wilson
Page 4: Colin Kaepernick (the guy Joe Flacco beat in the Super Bowl)
The magazine features a full-page spread of each of the young quarterbacks, with an image of a "comparable" NFL great behind them. Each page has the large-print headline, "The New Kings."
"Well *THE *king of the NFL, Joe Flacco, is not here," ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said of the magazine spread. "And I know inside this building Under Armour Performance Center], [they pay attention to stuff like that. Especially when Joe Flacco on the Internet is called one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the National Football League currently."
It's a bizarrely unique situation.
NFL quarterbacks coming off a Super Bowl win and MVP performance usually don't have anything to prove.
But three things are working against Flacco in his battle for respect.
First, even though he put together a historic postseason – 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions – he has consistently put up "pedestrian" numbers during the regular season. Second, he got a $120.6 million contract that some pundits don't believe he's worthy of because of his inconsistent regular-season play. Third, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, and Flacco will have to prove the Ravens can win without the two future Hall of Famers.
So, is it possible that Flacco can still be playing with a chip on his shoulder despite the Super Bowl MVP honor?
"Well, I think it's not just possible. I think probably with Joe it’s inevitable," Head Coach John Harbaugh told the NFL Network. "That's Joe's mindset. Joe is highly motivated."
Flacco has never passed for 4,000 yards or more than 25 touchdowns in a single season during his five-year professional career. But at least one journalist – The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel – thinks he will set career highs in passing yards (3,817) and touchdowns (25), even if it means he also breaks his high in interceptions (12).
The franchise sees Flacco taking a big step too.
"The Ravens' belief is, with Jim Caldwell remaining the playcaller, Flacco will carry over his spectacular postseason into the 2013 regular season," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Flacco is supremely important to the Ravens' success.
As Paolantonio pointed out, since Flacco entered the league in 2008, no NFL quarterback has more wins (63) or more Super Bowl rings (1).
Not Aaron Rodgers (57 wins). Not Matt Ryan (57). And not Drew Brees (56). The quarterback with the second-most wins (Rodgers) is six wins behind Flacco.
Few seem to focus on that, however.
"I've been around Joe Flacco a lot this spring and summer, it's pretty clear he's got a little bit more of an edge to him – definitely a chip on his shoulder," Paolantonio said. "It's clear he wants to prove to everybody that he's worth all the money in the offseason, he can do this without Ray Lewis and that he's not a fluke."
Doss Tries Out For Packers
Aaron Rodgers throwing passes to Tandon Doss?
Well, not quite yet, but there's a possibility.
The former Ravens wide receiver worked out for the Green Bay Packers yesterday, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. However, Doss was not immediately signed to a contract.
The 2011 Ravens' fourth-round pick was cut from the roster Saturday. Doss and Flacco didn't seem to develop consistent chemistry during the preseason – at least not as well as some other new receivers on the roster, including Brandon Stokley, Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette.
The talented Doss could develop that chemistry on another team with a different quarterback, and the Ravens believe that very well may happen.
"He definitely played well enough to make our team, but you take the 53 guys that fit the best, and there are a lot of other considerations that go into that, and you put it all together and make a decision," Harbaugh said over the weekend. "Tandon Doss is going to play football in this league, guaranteed, and he's going to have a very good career. I've said that all along, and I still believe that to be true."
Did You Know? Ravens, Broncos Two Of NFL's Fastest Offenses
Don't blink Thursday night.
"Blink and you might miss something when the Ravens and Broncos run their no-huddle offenses," tweeted Vensel.
The Ravens had the third-fastest offensive pace in the NFL last season with an average of 27.54 seconds of game clock used per offensive play, according to Football Outsiders via Vensel. Meanwhile, the Broncos were the second fastest, using just 27.45 seconds. (Tom Brady and the Patriots led the league at 24.53 seconds.)
"Peyton Manning has long been a maestro of the no-huddle offense, orchestrating high-scoring offenses for 14 years in Indianapolis and another in Denver," Vensel wrote. "The Ravens don't use their no-huddle offense exclusively, but when they did pick up the pace last season, the results were often favorable. While not at Manning's level yet, Flacco and the offense have been working since last season to become faster and more efficient. The up-tempo offense meshes with the attacking mentality of John Harbaugh."
The Ravens drafted players that fit well into the no-huddle: Running back Ray Rice, tight end Ed Dickson (played in Chip Kelly's famous fast-paced Oregon offense), fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and of course Flacco, who ran the no-huddle at Delaware.
Some of the positives that come from running the no-huddle include running as many offensive plays as possible, wearing down the opposing defense, preventing it from making substitutions and maybe even confusing opponents while barking out commands at the line of scrimmage. It can also get a team into rhythm, but on the flip side it could also mean a quick three-and-out if it doesn't convert on first down.
Last season, the Ravens picked their spots to use the no-huddle offense, but some players would like to see it used all the time.
"Why not?" Dickson told Vensel. "If you're beating them in that no-huddle, then why not keep that pressure on?"
While the Ravens could run more hurry-up, that doesn't entirely explain their offensive identity as far as a run-pass ratio is concerned.
Will the Raven pass more, as Flacco tries to prove he is worth all that money the Ravens agreed to pay him?
Or do they utilize one of the most potent weapons in the NFL, and simply give Rice the rock and let him do his thing. After all, the Ravens have lost Flacco's top two targets from last season in wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta.
"The Ravens' identity is going to be a little of both," wrote Hensley. "A balanced attack isn't a haphazard guess. This is based on what the Ravens did in the playoffs with Caldwell running the show. In the postseason, Flacco dropped back to throw 132 times and the running backs received 128 carries. The two most proven playmakers are Flacco and Ray Rice, and it would be unproductive to take the ball out of either one of their hands for an extended period."
More Tough Roster Choices Ahead
If you thought the Ravens had to make tough choices in the 2013 offseason, wait until the 2014 offseason is upon us.
With an expected salary cap around $123 million next year, the Ravens are already committed to 51 contracts worth $122.831 million, according to Wilson.
Six players account for $70.9 million: Haloti Ngata ($16 million), Flacco ($14.8 million), Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), Rice ($8.75 million) and guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million).
If Suggs regains his 2011 Defensive Player of the Year form, the Ravens could opt to extend his contract rather than allowing him to play out the final year of his current $62.5 million contact. An extension could lower his salary-cap figure for next season.
Ngata is scheduled to make the most next year, but "his deal looks unlikely to be adjusted," wrote Wilson.
"With [Dennis] Pitta recovering from a dislocated, fractured right hip that required surgery and Dickson now the starter, only one is likely to be back after this season," he added. "[NFL agent Joel] Corry predicted that Arthur Jones likely will leave one year after a breakthrough season, and [Daryl] Smith could become expensive if he has a resurgent season. … The Ravens are not in contract talks with [Michael] Oher. Preliminary discussions last year went nowhere. … The Ravens could save some money, since Oher is a right tackle, which would make him cheaper than a left tackle. … Plus, former University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith will be eligible for a contract extension for the first time after this season three years into his rookie deal as he becomes the top receiver with Boldin gone."
Jones Requesting To Respect His Privacy
Arthur Jones' health status went from not serious to "not life-threatening or anything."
That made outsiders even more curious about the mysterious illness that will cause Jones to miss at least the first game of the season.
As curious as everyone may be, however, Jones is requesting that everyone respect his privacy.
"As many of you know i'm having personal health issues," Jones tweeted. "Please respect my privacy. We as athlete's go through real life problems also.Thank you all for your love and support. Ravens fans are the best!! See you all on the field soon!!! : ) #Onelove"
Power Rankings: Week 1
The Super Bowl champs are not being given the benefit of the doubt.
Many are concerned about a rebuilt defense and an offense with question marks surrounding the receiver and tight end positions.
But not everyone is counting the Ravens out. Hensley predicted that the Ravens will win the AFC North for the third consecutive year.
"The demise of the defending Super Bowl champions has been greatly exaggerated," Hensley wrote.
With that, here are the first week's NFL power rankings from around the web:
Baltimore lost six Super Bowl starters and Paul Kruger on defense, but quietly reloaded. A defensive draft, plus Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith, will keep the Ravens' D formidable.
**Vinnie Iyer, Sportingnews.com**: No. 5
What, no respect for the Super Bowl champs? Well, breaking into the top five of a top-heavy field is very respectable, and with Joe Flacco turning the corner as a truly elite passer, they are in the conversation to repeat.
**Brian Billick, Foxsports.com:**No. 5
It was panic mode in Baltimore during the first few days of free agency, but the signings of Dumervil and Michael Huff followed by yet another stellar draft, the Ravens fans are once again praising Ozzie Newsome.
**Matt Vensel, The Baltimore Sun**: No. 1
This probably wouldn't be a popular pick outside of Baltimore, but I always install the defending champs atop my first edition of power rankings. Why change it now? No, I don't think the Ravens are the best team in the NFL right now. But I think they are a playoff team and could very well be the best team at year's end -- just like last season.
**Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com**: No. 8
They've had a lot of change since winning the Super Bowl, but that front office is top-notch and they will be in the mix again.
**Elliot Harrison, NFL.com**: No. 6
Getting Marshal Yanda and Lardarius Webb healthy again is huge. Huge. Yet, so much of Baltimore's success in 2013 hinges on the Ravens' young receiver corps and the quality of the front seven. The guess here is that the latter group will be damn good. But as for the receivers? Look, everyone is high on Marlon Brown. But can he pick this team up on third downs? Torrey Smith is more Randy Moss than Cris Carter; i.e., he's not the third-and-6 possession guy. Did you know Smith caught nine balls on third down last season -- all season? Tight end Dennis Pitta, the Jay Novacek of this offense last year, is out for 2013. When it comes to the short passing game, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell must find an answer that is different from Ray Rice, or Rice will catch 90 balls and the Ravens' "Diet"-style attack will contribute to a 9-7 record.
- "It's looking more likely that the Broncos will be without cornerback Champ Bailey when they face the Ravens on Thursday night," wrote Michael David Smith. "Bailey did not practice [Tuesday]." [ProFootballTalk.com]
- Torrey Smith is preparing for Bailey just in case. [The Baltimore Sun]
- Here's a great feature on Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, who has reinvented himself after a Hall of Fame playing career. "How many guys have you seen that rest on their laurels as players and don't reinvent themselves in their next chapter of life?" said Scott Pioli, a former NFL executive and NBC football analyst. "Ozzie keeps doing that." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Pitta's injured reserve-designated to return transaction is expected to happen Wednesday. [The Baltimore Sun]
- The Ravens defense is aiming to make expectations a reality in the post-Lewis era [WNST]
- @ravensinsider: Besides Tandon Doss trying out for Packers, Ramon Harewood tried out for the Giants and Rogers Gaines tried out for the Eagles. None signed
- @rayrice27: .@TideNFL packed my bag for Denver, I'm ready with purple and black for the 1st game of the season! #OurColors
- @bmoreeisenberg: Billy Cundiff signs with Browns, will kick in Baltimore on Sept. 15
- @tonydungy: Just leaving the Ravens' offices after interviewing Joe Flacco for @SNFonNBC Very impressive young man. The Ravens have a very good team!
- The NFL Live crew talks about how the Ravens will replace the leadership of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. [ESPN]