While he’s played well in big moments over the last few years and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco still doesn’t sniff our Top 10. For the majority of his career, he’s played like a middle-of-the-pack quarterback. A good 4-game stretch during the 2012 playoffs (which included the “Fail Mary” in Denver by the way) doesn’t change who he is as a quarterback.
Flacco’s greatest strength is his strong arm. He can make any throw on the field, and he shows that by pushing the ball downfield regularly. He throws a great deep ball, often putting tons of air under it and leading his receivers away from defenders to create that extra separation.
Flacco looks most comfortable throwing iso routes to the outside. He throws these balls with confidence, as these routes are generally easier to read. He’s calm in the pocket as well. Because of his demeanor and his height, he can hang in the pocket late, as chaos occurs around him, and scan the field for open receivers.
Flacco does not look like the same quarterback when throwing the ball over the middle of the field, however. He generally tends to stay away from route combinations over the middle because, on those types of passes, there are more defenders to account for and the throwing lanes appear and disappear quickly. To work this area of the field requires quick timing and rhythm, two things that aren’t Flacco’s strong suits.
Flacco has always tended to work the outside routes. But in 2010, the addition of Anquan Boldin, a physical inside receiver, gave Flacco the confidence to work the middle of the field more. Tight end Dennis Pitta’s development gave Flacco yet another presence in the middle of the field. While Flacco still tended to be at his best working one-on-one matchups when he did work the inside routes, the field was expanded for him with the additions of Boldin and Pitta.
In 2013, Flacco had arguably the worst season of his career. Boldin was gone, and Pitta missed most of the season due to injury. As a result, Flacco seemed to stay away from the middle of the field for large stretches at a time. With a weak O-line and a non-existent running game, the Ravens were often in 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations. Too often, Flacco would work the vertical routes instead of taking 3-5 yards underneath and setting up more manageable 2nd and 3rd downs. This hurt the consistency of the Ravens offense as they either picked up large chunks of yards or nothing at all.
Flacco must improve in taking what the defense gives him in order to put the Ravens in more manageable situations in 2014. He has to take those 5 yards when the defense gives them to him on 1st and 10. On 2nd and 8, he needs to think about cutting the yardage in half to stay out of as many 3rd-and-long situations. Flacco’s best talent is his arm, but because he trusts it so much, it often holds him back as a quarterback. If he can manage to more regularly make those seemingly inconsequential plays and keep the offense on schedule, he’ll become more consistent as a quarterback.