Wildcat might give Ravens QB Joe Flacco the kick he needs

November 24, 2013|Mike Preston

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco appeared to get the message Sunday.

When a team resorts to the Wildcat or trick plays to spark an offense, it's a slap at the personnel, especially the quarterback. Flacco didn't appear to be happy when the team lined up in the formation, and he seemed slightly irritated when questioned about it after the game.

"It's good and fun for a little bit, but that's it," said Flacco in a serious tone. "I don't want to be lining up at Z and X. I want to line up behind center."

Mission accomplished.

When he lined up at wide receiver, Flacco stayed near the sideline and put his hands in the front pouch of his jersey or on his hips. He could have fired off the line of scrimmage as a decoy, but he just stood there and watched the plays.

But at least Flacco played better than last week when he had a pass intercepted for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears and another one picked off after throwing into triple coverage.

It's the first time the Ravens have extensively used the Wildcat and other gadget plays this season and could be the last depending on the play of Flacco and the offensive line.

Flacco wasn't spectacular, but he was one of the difference makers against the New York Jets on Sunday. He completed 17-of-26 passes for 273 yards including a 66-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones in the third quarter which broke open the game in the 19-3 win.

He scrambled and made plays while being pressured, and finished with a quarterback rating of 97.1 despite the strong wind gusts.

"I thought Joe was sharp," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he threw the ball really well. The one interception was really a route that wasn't run exactly right, so that was more of a miscommunication. But he made a lot of good throws into the wind. He was really sharp running the offense, getting us into plays. We did a really good with where we ran, what part of the defense we ran at. We did a good job with that."

All right, Harbaugh is going a little overboard. He is in confidence-building mode after criticizing Flacco early last week, and he knows he has to continue to work on Flacco's psyche.

But to go to the Wildcat is a statement. It's been advocated here for weeks, but it is also a submission especially with a quarterback who was ranked No. 26 before Sunday's game and has thrown 14 interceptions.

But before anyone gets really depressed, let's make something clear.

There are worse things in the NFL. You could be waking up in New York on Monday morning as a Jets fan and Geno Smith could be your starting quarterback.

How does that feel?

Flacco's inconsistency, inaccuracy and lack of pocket awareness drives everyone around here crazy, even his biggest supporters, but he is no Geno Smith.

Thank goodness.

You can complain about his $120.6 million salary or the famed whirlybird move in the pocket, but if the Ravens had not re-signed him during the offseason, they could have a Geno Smith.

Or a Ryan Tannehill or a Jason Campbell.

With Smith as the starter Sunday, the Jets had one of the worst offenses in recent history. On their second play of the game, they went to the Wildcat which was an indication of what they thought of Smith.

He was inaccurate. Even late in the game when the Jets went to a hurry up offense, they were still running the ball. Smith completed 9-of-22 passes for 127 yards and had a quarterback rating of 22.3. He threw two interceptions. The Jets were 1-of-12 on third down and had no clue on how to beat the Ravens.

That happens a lot when a team starts a rookie quarterback.

"He's had better days," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

When you've watched Jeff Blake, Scott Mitchell and Kyle Boller play quarterback, you get a certain appreciation for Flacco because some days he looks like Jim Plunkett or Roman Gabriel.

If you take a look at some of the really sorry teams in the NFL like the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Jacksonville Jaguars, they all have quarterback problems.

Flacco has his issues, but he is still in the Top 10 as far as quarterbacks, a notch below Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, but right up there with quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.

But when the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled early in the season, Pittsburgh broke out the Wildcat against the Ravens. Roethlisberger didn't complain, but his play has improved during the last couple of weeks.

Maybe that happens with Flacco. On most days, he'll keep you competitive and he won't lose to lower level teams.

But maybe when the Ravens broke out backup Tyrod Taylor on Sunday and Flacco had to spread out as a wide receiver, it set off an alarm in his head.

He needs to wake up.

Maybe he did Sunday.



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