Making the playoffs every year since entering the league and breaking the record for most wins by a quarterback in his first four years, Joe Flacco has accomplished a lot in a still young NFL career.
Despite these impressive accolades, Flacco’s inconsistencies have plagued the Ravens and attract more criticism than praise. The source of the quarterback’s irregularities was often cited as the play calling of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Now that Cam Cameron is gone, what’s to blame if Joe Flacco doesn’t improve?
Cam Cameron has been widely viewed as the ball and chain to Joe Flacco, holding him back from reaching his true potential. While we’ve all heard gripes about his play calling, the real culprit was his scheme in general.
Cam Cameron rarely ran plays designed to attack the middle of the field and instead focused on throwing towards the sideline with out-routes, curls, and fades. This was incredibly predictable and allowed defenses to key in on this tendency. He also underutilized bunch and trips formations, preferring to use only two wide receivers on obvious passing downs. This old style of offense greatly handicapped the Ravens’ offense when it came to beating both man and zone coverage.
Additionally, the majority of Cameron’s passing focused on isolation routes. Instead of using crossing and rub routes that force the defense to be out of position, Cam Cameron relied on the talent of his receivers to beat the coverage one on one. While Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are great receivers, neither can physically over-power nor out-run any corner in the league on any given play. This made the job even more difficult for Joe Flacco as precision passing is necessary to throw an isolated player open.
If Jim Caldwell opens the playbook more, I expect Joe Flacco to make strides towards being the player many expect to be. We’ve all seen that how good he’s been on multiple occasions such as the game winning drive in Pittsburgh last year and the 2011 AFC Championship. I don’t believe either of these games were flukes and they show that Flacco has the ability to look like a superstar. If you look back at his poorer games, a lot of the play calling was questionable and this very well may be the big issue at hand.
At first, it was the lack of offensive weapons that plagued Joe Flacco earlier in his career. Now, he’s got it all with a reliable tight end in Dennis Pitta, a top 3 running back with Ray Rice, a tough, possession receiver in Anquan Boldin, and two speedsters who can take the top off the defense in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. With a hopefully improved offense in place, Flacco’s got everything he needs to succeed. At this point, he has no more excuses for sloppy play.
Let’s remember, this is Joe Flacco’s contract year and owner Steve Bisciotti needed to remove the excuses. He needs to know beyond a reasonable doubt what he has in Flacco before he strokes that big check. Cam Cameron was fogging the radar of Joe Flacco’s true potential, and now that he’s out of the way, Bisciotti will be able to better gauge how much Flacco is worth to the Ravens.
If improvements aren’t seen from a new offensive game plan, then we may just have to come to terms of having a slightly above average and inconsistent quarterback.
There’s always room for improvement but if we do get to this point, the Ravens may have to consider other options at quarterback.
Photo courtesy of WSOC TV