Yesterday, my colleague Adam Bonaccorsi explained why, if health permits, Joe Flacco should be the starting QB this week when the Ravens face the Falcons in Atlanta.
To be clear, I’m very close to neutral on what has become a heated debate among the fan base. Literally every call on 105.7 The Fan yesterday was in regards to the QB controversy.
Joe and Lamar are two very different QBs, and each one comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is winning. I want the quarterback that gives the Ravens the best chance to win under center. So with that said, I’ll explain why Robert Griffin III should be the starter come Sunday. (Ok I’m kidding, it’s LJ. BUT he does feel like the perfect middle ground, no?)
Exhibit A: Ground and Pound
Let’s start with the all too obvious. Through their first nine weeks of football, the Ravens’ biggest weakness was the rushing attack – and it wasn’t even close.
In those nine games, all with Flacco under center, the Ravens rushing attack averaged 92.6 rushing yards per game (and a lot of those yards were thanks to Lamar coming in and taking snaps).
Well, with Flacco sidelined for the past two contests, things have taken a drastic turn for the better. How drastic? I’m glad you asked. Over that span, the offense has rumbled for 255.5 yards per game.
Say whaaat?! This is a team that couldn’t run the ball with any semblance of confidence. Now, I get the argument that Cincy and Oakland were two bad defenses. It surely counts for something. But 265 and 242 rushing yards bad, two weeks in a row?
I don’t know. I don’t believe for a second that they could have ran for even half that with Flacco in there, or perhaps just as important, nor would they have tried to run the ball consistently with Joe taking the snaps.
Gus Edwards deserves a ton of credit in this rushing resurgence, as he’s now had back to back 100-yard games. He runs hard and decisively. But don’t think for a second that he’d have the gaping holes to run through without LJ’s presence drawing opposing defenders’ attention.
STAT OF THE DAY: The Ravens have gone from a bottom five rushing attack with Joe to now averaging 122 rushing yards per game on the year, good for 11th in the NFL. That’s a 30-yard per game jump in just two games with LJ at the helm.
Of their 1,343 rushing yards on the season, 511 have come in Lamar’s two starts. That’s a ridiculous 38 percent.
STAT OF THE DAY, PART DEUX: This Ravens defense is also reaping the rewards. They have seen the field about 5 mins less per game.
Exhibit 2: The gun show(down)
Now that we’ve established a MAJOR improvement in one aspect of the game with Jackson starting, let’s see where this offense might see a decline with LJ.
And when I say might, I mean ‘definitely will.’ It’s no secret that Joe is a superior slinger of the football compared to Lamar. The passing attack has suffered in Jackson’s starts, with the team averaging only 155 yards passing.
Jackson was always gonna need some work as a passer coming out of college. His accuracy issues are well documented, and his decision-making has to get better as well. By the way, Joe wasn’t exactly lighting the football world on fire as a rookie, either. He leaned heavily on the defense, and…wait for it…the running game, which consisted of three-headed monster Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, at the time.
That said, I thought Lamar improved in his second start despite the two interceptions. He made some really nice throws that were dropped or called back. He demonstrated that he does keep his eyes downfield while scrambling and tries to go through his progressions.
As for Flacco, he’s been the model of average throughout his career, this year included. After a hot 3-1 start, the Ravens went 1-4 over Flacco’s past five starts. Over that span, he averaged 242 yards, with four TD and four INT. Not great. Also, let’s not act like Joe’s decision making doesn’t leave a lot to be desired.
No doubt, Flacco is a better passer. But I think the gain that shows up in the ground game outweighs the hit the passing game takes.
Exhibit 3: Gameflow
When I look at the remaining schedule, a disturbing trend forms. That trend is facing a lot of high-octane offenses that can light up a scoreboard in a hurry. The Falcons, Chiefs, Bucs, Chargers, and even the Browns all have good offenses in fact.The good news is that these teams rank 25th,20th,18th, 14th, and 28th respectively in rushing defense.
Or may I offer you another option? You start Lamar, run the ball down the throats of these mediocre run defenses, eating up clock and keep these offenses off the field.
I think that’s the game plan that gives the Ravens their best chance this year, and it helps them moving forward by getting LJ valuable experience. It’s the only way the kid will learn. And if he really struggles Sunday? Well, you still have the option to go back to Flacco.