As the Ravens and Gary Kubiak install their new offense before our very eyes this summer during training camp, many of those eyes will be focused on just how much progress Joe Flacco has made in the new system.
The key to success for Flacco in 2014 doesn’t necessarily rely on his arm – but instead, his feet. Proper footwork is key in the West Coast system, and will perhaps be more crucial than ever for Joe.
As Kubiak pointed out earlier this offseason, in his systems he teaches quarterbacks to make reads with their feet first instead of their eyes. Flacco appears to have made huge strides in achieving that goal thus far this offseason. That should help him with a criticism often lobbed at him – that he doesn’t get the football out quickly enough.
The next step for Flacco and company will be translating that footwork into going through progessions against an opposing defense once the pads are strapped on. At 6-6, 245lbs, he stands tall in the pocket; however, for Kubiak’s passing schemes moving around is vital.
Unlike he offenses Joe ran under Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell, the footwork ties things together a bit more in Kubiak’s style of play.
Another reason for focusing on Joe’s footwork are the bootleg plays, play-action passes along with the keepers often associated heavily with a West Coast offense.
Earlier this month, Joe was asked about his footwork.
“I don’t think your footwork really changes,” Flacco explaned. “It’s just a matter of tying everything into each other, making sure that it’s as perfect as it can be in practice so that you don’t drift too far away from that in games when things can get a little bit tough.”
Like I said, it’s all the same footwork, it’s just making sure that you tie it into your reads and that you can do it spot on in practice, in routes versus the air, so that when things break down a little bit, you’re ready to go, you’re still set and you’re ready to throw.”
Another point of emphasis is understanding the new terminology. Everyone needs to be on the same page and it starts with Flacco. Unlike other positions in this new offense where certain players were brought in to help others (like RB and TE), Joe must rely on his quarterback coach Rick Dennison. It begins in the meeting rooms, looking through photos and listening to his the coaches to help cut down on any communication breakdowns.
All too often last season we saw communication breakdowns all along the offensive side of the football that often led to busted blocking assignments, poorly ran routes and even blunders by Joe. Flacco finishing third on the team in rushing in 13′ (27 rushes, 131 yards, 4.9 ypc average), only confirms the importance of understanding the correct terminology.
As training camp gets under way and the team builds on it’s strengths to avoid another offensive letdown this season, rest assured that Joe won’t have to carry this offense on his back…as long as his footwork is up to par.
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