Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Orioles activity.
This is my first piece of the year about the Ravens, I felt the time was right now that training camp is in full swing. Head Coach, John Harbaugh, has stated he is easing the veterans in due to the early start to training camp, so first-round pick, Lamar Jackson, has plenty of opportunities to make a strong early impression. Many are putting Joe Flacco on the hot seat but, is there a real quarterback competition this year?
I was thrilled when the Ravens traded back into the first round this year to draft Lamar Jackson. Watching him play at Louisville, it was very apparent that he was the best athlete on the field and it seemed to me like his skills as a quarterback were underappreciated. When it comes to examining the Ravens’ quarterback “competition”, I think it is important to note the situation in the front office that surrounded this pick. General Manager, Ozzie Newsome, is going to step down as GM after this year. In picking Jackson, Ravens brass set up Ozzie’s successor, Eric DeCosta, with a franchise quarterback to whom he could hitch his wagon. Just like when you talk about a college coach getting his own recruits before you can judge his success, an NFL GM is going to want his own quarterback. For this reason, I think Decosta had a lot of influence on this pick, he wanted his own QB for the future. The nature of Flacco’s contract makes him easier to release after this season, just as DeCosta’s reign begins. If this is the case, Flacco is Ozzie’s guy and Jackson is DeCosta’s guy, and while Ozzie is around, Flacco will start.
To me, Flacco has handled the situation admirably so far. This is the first time in several seasons that Flacco has felt any heat from the backup quarterback. Matt Schaub and Ryan Mallett were never really threats to take the starting job, unless Flacco was hurt. Since Jackson is a young, exciting, first-rounder, that heat is far greater than ever, especially when you consider Joe’s lackluster performance the past couple years. Flacco has answered all questions with confidence and conviction. I personally loved his answer when asked if he would get annoyed by questions about Jackson during the regular season. He said, “No, I don’t because I think we’re going to win and we’re not going to hear about it…”. As a competitor, that is a great answer by Flacco. Some may say he is in denial about Jackson’s arrival, but I think he has confidence in his ability to lead the Ravens to wins. If the Ravens win games and the offense hums, there shouldn’t be a controversy, right?
Several sources have reported that Flacco is healthy and has his mobility back. Though he’s never thought of as a running, athletic quarterback, Flacco likes to scramble quite a bit. Thinking back to the Super Bowl season in 2012, he made countless big throws while rolling out to his right to avoid pressure. The Mile High Miracle required him to mobile to step up in the pocket before getting rid of the ball. While the designed runs in practice may be some experimentation, it is important for Flacco to get comfortable again his ability to use his feet, whether that is to pick up a first down or buy himself some time to deliver a strike downfield.
I think the confidence also stems from the investment made in the offense this offseason. The front office finally invested a great deal in the Ravens offense through free agency and the draft, to get Flacco some help immediately. Adding guys like Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Hayden Hurst, and Mark Andrews finally gives the Ravens more than one quality option to throw the ball to. Add that to a running game with a bulked up Alex Collins, a returning Kenneth Dixon, a solid Buck Allen, and a healthy offensive line that will include Marshall Yanda, and all of a sudden the Ravens offense has some potential. These guys were added this offseason to give Flacco one more shot to earn his keep. This is a sign that the front office still believes in Flacco, now they’ve finally surrounded him with some proven pieces and some young playmakers for him to prove he is elite. Ravens fans have all seen how good Joe Flacco can be, but now there are truly no excuses. He needs to perform up to expectations and make a deep run into the playoffs. Though the Ravens are clearly planning for the future with Lamar Jackson, I also see these moves evoking a Win Now mentality.
Lamar Jackson presents quarterback competition like the Ravens haven’t seen since Tyrod Taylor was in Baltimore, but to a much greater degree. While he has the talent and explosiveness the Ravens and fans crave, QB1 is Flacco’s job to lose. Combined with backing from the current front office, his health, and new/returning offensive pieces, I believe Flacco when he says he’s not worried about the chatter. I can sense some additional fire and urgency in his responses to the media, further shedding the outdated ‘boring’ label. Joe Flacco is back in position to lead this team, and I expect him to extinguish any early calls for Lamar Jackson with a Pro Bowl caliber season.