Brian Baldinger
Brian Baldinger On the Ravens
I believe in Joe Flacco.
I believe even more in a healthy Joe Flacco. And that has been the story of the Raven preseason. When is Joe going to return and when is he strong enough, and without pain to get back under a new center and get back to leading the Raven franchise.
 The health is crucial. Joe Flacco started every game for the Ravens from 2008-2014. 7 straight seasons including the playoffs and of course the championship run of 2012. Outside of a knee injury the following season where he missed the final 6 starts Joe Flacco has been the smiling face of the Ravens for a decade.
Jersey Joe is from a blue collar neighborhood not far from here at NFL FILMS. Audubon, NJ to be exact. He still lives nearby and is seen regularly in his neighborhood running normal husband errands for his wife and kids. He can be seen at Ramblewood Country Club, a golf course he owns with Ron Jaworski.  Always a quiet kid as he shared a household with a lot of other boys. He knew his place.
I mention some of Joe’s background because its important to know that he is the same guy for the Ravens as he was growing up and that he is now. Money, attention, some levels of fame hasn’t changed Joe at all. And perhaps because he is so non-flussed by his success he also doesn’t get enough credit for what he has accomplished and for what he still might be able to accomplish when  back healthy.
I had the chance to catch up recently with his former wide receiver, Steve Smith sr. who happily sung immense praise for Joe and what level of professional he is. The arm strength is to marvel at. His preparation is that of all the other elite players. His toughness and competitiveness is that of the other elite names when the weekly ratings of star quarterbacks are compared and contrasted. Steve Smith sr. loved playing with Joe and had a real resurgence with his own career because of Flacco.
But since the end of the Ravens 2016 season the team that Joe will be aligned with has changed drastically since he last took a snap on New Year’s Day in a loss to the Bengals. His favorite target, TE Dennis Pitta has retired and his backup Crocket Gillmore was lost for the season. Jeremy Maclin was signed in June after being a salary cap casualty of the Chiefs. Their key free agent signing was Danny Woodhead who can be a valuable chess piece for Marty Mornhinweg and Greg Roman. The offensive line is under new leadership and has many new faces. The bottom line is that their is very little carry over from last season. Lots of changes
But Joe Flacco has only known change. Especially at the coordinator spot where systems and coaches have been coming and going throughout his nine- year career. Cam Cameron was his first coordinator and he stayed for the first four or five years before Les Miles convinced him to come to Baton Rouge. When Cam left Jim Caldwell was groomed to become his replacement. That experiment lasted a year before Gary Kubiak came to the rescue in 2014.
They had what I thought was the best team in the AFC that season and were up 28-14 to the patriots in the 4th quarter only to see that lead whittle away amidst some questionable play calls by the Pats. When Kubes moved on in came Mark Trestman and his brand of offense. That didn’t last long as Mornhinweg was groomed as a replacement. Under Marty, Joe would have his first ever 4000 yard season and  complete the highest percentage he ever had.
This year they added Greg Roman as a run game coordinator. How has Joe ever gotten the terminology straight from year to year with all of the changes in style of offense.
Steve Smith Sr. said the only difference between Jason Campbell and Joe Flacco is that Joe has the ring. I would argue with Steve over that because Joe has had lots of success in the league and the highest level of success in the postseason. But the analogy that both QB’s have experienced so much change from year to year that its amazing he could have any success at all.
Think about a couplke of the elite QB’s in the league and the level of stability that they have enjoyed. Brady and Belicheck. Rogers and McCarthy; Brees and Payton.
But you will never hear nor has anyone ever heard Joe and any discontent with the direction of the organization. I would argue that the Ravens have done very little to fortify the offensive ranks with Joe as most of there resources have gone to strengthening the defense over the past 2 seasons. 11 of the 15 draftpicks in ’16-’17 have gone to the defense in additions to big free agent spendings on Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, and Brandon Carr.
Regardless of the coaching staff and the roster changes the Ravens were close last year. How Close> They were one game out of first place when in week 16 last year they went to play the Steelers and had the lead when Antonio Brown  made a circus catch and a superhuman effort to get a yard and the winning touchdown in the final minute of the bruising AFC NORTH battle.
It remains to be seen what level of execution Flacco can return to lineup with after missing the entire preseason. I know this, once he does return so does the Raven chances to compete in the very tough division go up tremendously. Its just a question of time that I can say, I believe in Joe Flacco again

16 Sep 17 - Football, NFL, Ravens - Brian Baldinger - No Comments

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