Last week, I chatted with ESPN analyst and ex-NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck about San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers for an advance of the Ravens-Chargers game. While I had him on the line, I asked him about Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has had an up-and-down season in 2011, his fourth in the NFL.
Hasselbeck told me that Flacco isn’t in the same category as a player like Rivers, whom many feel is one of the top six or seven quarterbacks in the league. But he still thinks the Ravens can do big things with Flacco.
“Joe Flacco is a good enough player to help the Ravens win the Super Bowl,” said Hasselbeck, who played six seasons in the NFL. “He’s still a young, improving player. He’s also had to deal with a lot of change. [Losing] the quarterbacks coach [Jim Zorn in the offseason], that can be an adjustment for a young quarterback.”
He believes Flacco is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL, and that Flacco is fearless throwing from the pocket when defenders are bearing down on him. But how can he take that big step to the next level?
“First and foremost, protecting the ball inside the pocket. He has way too many fumbles,” Hasselbeck said. “The other aspect would be better anticipation. Because he has such a big arm, I think he relies on it a little too much. If he anticipates better, I think you will see more consistent and better play out of him.”
For now, as the Ravens head into the playoffs, Hasselbeck feels the best chance for the Ravens to go deep is to stick with what they are good at on offense: running the ball with Ray Rice and setting up play-action.
“There’s no doubt that being committed to the run game is the best approach based on the personnel that they have,” Hasselbeck said. “Ray Rice is by far the best offensive weapon, the most productive and consistent player that they have. If you really rely on him, it opens stuff up downfield for Torrey Smith and it allows Anquan Boldin to make the kind of plays that he can make. It also relieves some of the pressure on Joe Flacco.”