Joe Flacco doesn't do his offensive line any favors with his presence in the pocket. You have probably drawn blood if you have been scratching your head trying to figure out why Joe Flacco has not taken that proverbial leap forward into the upper echelon of quarterbacks these past two seasons. Flacco has prototypical size, one of the NFL's strongest arms and the calm demeanor needed to play the position over the long haul. The Ravens quarterback is tough as nails, too, having taken a ton of hard hits over the years without missing a snap due to injury. But he wouldn't have to pick himself up off the turf as often -- and maybe he would become the consistent Pro Bowl performer the Ravens hope he will ultimately be -- if he improved his awareness in the pocket. I know what you are saying, that this is not a new development. It is something that Flacco has had to work on since he joined the Ravens five years ago after playing in a shotgun spread attack at Delaware, and it continues to be a work in progress. But this is an area that has not been explored in this space, and can't be ignored after these past two games. In consecutive weeks, Flacco has had the ball batted out of his hands by a drive-by pass rusher. Both fumbles came with the Ravens leading in the second half. And both fumbles came on Baltimore's side of the field. Left tackle Michael Oher, who has been having a tough time out there as of late, deserves some of the blame for allowing speed rushers to get a step on him. But Flacco deserves some as well. He has seemed to be unaware of the pressure. Or maybe he just chooses to ignore it as he scans the field for an open receiver. But instead of shuffling around in the pocket or stepping up to avoid the rush, he stayed stationary as Washington Redskins outside linebacker Rob Jackson recorded a strip sack of Flacco. Oher grumbled a clichéd answer when asked about that play after the game, but it was telling that he said he thought he steered Jackson wide enough to keep Flacco and the ball out of harm's way. On the next possession and on Flacco's next pass attempt, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan came unblocked off the right end. Flacco stood in to make a throw, but was hit as he released it. The disrupted pass was deflected by a Redskins defensive lineman into the hands of London Fletcher, who picked it off. Fair or not, the Ravens offensive line has been criticized a lot recently, a trend that is sure to continue after Flacco turned the ball over twice under duress in Sunday's 31-28 loss. Flacco has been sacked 31 times this season, the fifth-highest total in the NFL and as many times as he was sacked a season ago. But once again, we also saw how dangerous Flacco can be when he gets some time, as he did on his three touchdown passes in the first half, particularly the one he threw to tight end Dennis Pitta. With all the time in the world, Flacco shuffled and shuffled and shuffled to his left as he waited for Pitta run open. We see Flacco make strong, smart throws like that, and we can't help but wonder why he doesn't do it consistently. He would do it more often if he had space and time to throw. But some of that is on him.
Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron
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