Putting in the Work

Street Talk Putting in the Work

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Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was asked earlier this month about the importance of quarterback Joe Flacco working with his receivers this offseason.

Newsome said the extra work will only help the team get back on track. Flacco has been criticized by some members of the local media about his work ethic.

“I think any time that players can get together and start to work on their craft and start to mesh and start to communicate with each other and understand each other,” Newsome said.

After missing the playoffs for three straight years, there is a clear sense of urgency entering this season.

Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, Joe Hortiz, director of college scouting, and coach John Harbaugh are determined to “fix” the team. The players, however, will need to match that intensity for the Ravens to get back in the hunt for an AFC North title.

It’s clear that Newsome expects everyone to be fully onboard with making a push for the playoffs this season. Newsome and the rest of the staff are leading by example.

“I think the value of John and my relationship over the last 11 years is that we communicate all the time,” Newsome said. “And we have a good feel for it, and the same thing has been with Eric and with Joe, so that should flow down to the players, too. You know, that if you spend a lot of time working with each other, then when you get into situations in a game and a practice, you know how a person is going to react.”

Flacco, 33, has dealt with both knee and back injuries over the last three seasons. He threw for 3,141 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2017. The Ravens finished the year ranked 27th in total offense and had the league’s 29th-ranked passing game.

The team did play much better in the second half of the season, averaging 29.8 points per game over the final nine weeks.

Flacco was hampered by a lack of playmakers on offense. As a result, the Ravens jettisoned the underperforming Jeremy Maclin and replaced him with couple of playmaking receivers, Michael Crabtree and John Brown. Harbaugh believes those moves alone will boost the passing game.

“A healthy Joe Flacco plus the weapons, I’m sure there’s a math term for that,” Harbaugh said at the recent NFL owners meetings. “Exponential. It’s exponential. That’s what I’m counting on.”

Perhaps no other player will be under more pressure than Flacco this season. He has not lived up to his lofty contract and the Ravens could potentially part ways with him in 2019.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and the coaches have publicly supported Flacco, agreeing he needs more weapons to perform.

“We had Joe throwing a week before the regular season game, and I think that we were conservative,” Bisciotti said. “If you want to call it boring, we probably were boring. Part of that was protecting Joe and getting the ball out quickly, and it showed up in some pretty ugly offensive numbers. But, what we saw in him when our offensive line solidified and he got more comfortable in the pocket … Obviously, if we could recreate the last half of the season, then I think we would maybe still be playing. We’re a long way off to have to worry about Joe, I think.”

Nonetheless, Flacco remains a polarizing figure for the fanbase. His participation in a few, voluntary offseason workouts could ease some of the concerns surrounding him.

However, this year’s NFL Draft will be a better gauge for Flacco’s future and the direction of the franchise, especially if the Ravens take a quarterback in one of the early rounds.

ESPN analyst Adam Schefter said Flacco should be feeling some pressure.

“The Ravens know they need to start looking at other quarterbacks for Joe Flacco, who has not gotten to the playoffs in the last couple of years,” Schefter said. “He has won a Super Bowl, but I do think they are looking. … It will be very interesting to see what the Ravens do in the draft as it pertains to quarterback.”

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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