Former NFL quarterback Trent Green subbed for Peter King's popular column "Monday Morning Quarterback" for SI.com on Monday while King was away for an annual vacation. In the piece, Green made the bold prediction that at least 10 quarterbacks will throw for over 4,000 yards this year.
The signal-callers he noted included stalwarts like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but also up-and-comers such as Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub.
But what about Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco")? And is it worth changing the basic identity of Baltimore's ball-control, smash-mouth offense to reach that mark?
The Ravens passer totaled 2,971 yards through the air his rookie season, completing 60.0 percent of his attempts (257-of-428) for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Throughout the campaign, Flacco noticeably developed in both leadership ability and on-field performance, as offensive coordinator **Cam Cameron** continued to open the playbook and the Ravens marched to the AFC Championship.
Such improvements have not gone unnoticed by Flacco's teammates and coaches, as many Ravens commented on the Delaware product's take-charge attitude – not to mention his trademark accurate and powerful arm – during offseason minicamps.
"As the 2008] season went on, you could see him open up more and more,” said wideout [**Derrick Mason**, who led the team with 80 catches for 1,037 yards last year. "Now, he knows he is 'the guy.' As 'the guy,' you have to be able to interact with everybody. But that's his personality. Now, he's just full-fledged Joe."
"At all of our quarterback schools, we spent time working on his technique, mostly on the waist down trying to give him a little more strength, a little more knee flexion, little technical things," Cameron recently told CBSSports.com. "He carried that over into the practices and he's gotten a lot stronger. You can see that he's doing a lot less thinking and playing and reacting, which is what you want to get a quarterback to do.
Multiple factors will contribute to Flacco's potential for 4,000. The Ravens boast a young and promising offensive line that is coming off a season giving up the second-fewest sacks in franchise history (33). Flacco has the benefit of one year under his belt with Baltimore's existing crop of receivers, which includes Mason, **Mark Clayton**, **Demetrius Williams** and **Marcus Smith**.
Many pundits say that the Ravens need to add another game-breaking target, however, one that would stretch the field to take advantage of Flacco's pinpoint long-distance bombs.
That could mean plucking Marvin Harrison or Drew Bennnett out of the free agent pool or making an aggressive trade for one of a few disgruntled talents that are unhappy with their current team and contract.
Still, many Ravens would argue that they can get the job done with the group already in-house, which should also contain tight ends **Todd Heap** and **L.J. Smith**.
"We had a pretty darn good team last year, and obviously it was with the guys we had, so we don't need anybody else," Flacco said.
That said, the Ravens will likely remain a run-oriented team, relying on a three-headed rushing attack to set up downfield shots for Flacco. With **Le’Ron McClain**, Ray Rice!(/team/roster/ray-rice/9d941a20-0c76-412d-85fd-165a029d59e6/ "Ray Rice") and **Willis McGahee** toting the football last season, Baltimore finished fourth in the NFL with a 148.5 rush-yard average per game. All three figure to return fully healthy for training camp. Meanwhile, the passing offense was only 28th (175.5 yard average).
Four thousands yards is not easy to come by, anyway. Only Brees, Kurt Warner, Cutler, Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Manning surpassed that total in 2008. The last - and only - time a Ravens signal caller hit 4,000 was Vinny Testaverde, who threw for 4,177 yards in 1996.
So while it would be nice for Flacco to join that rare club in only his second season, the Ravens don't think they need him to do so at this point.
As Cameron and everyone else in the offensive meeting room have stated, the unit will undoubtedly grow.
The Ravens' identity will simply grow along with it.