For the first two years of his NFL career, the Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco has always had the security of a high profile defense covering his back and a great running game to take the pressure off of the young kid. The offensive game plan was always, "keep it simple and don't force the QB to carry the team." Now, despite the fact that the running game is still as good as always, and the defense appears to be one of the better ones in the league, the offense absolutely belongs to Joe.
No longer the overprotective parent, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron has taken the reins off of Flacco and the focus of the offense has been on revamping the passing game during the off-season as well as the preseason. Flacco threw the ball 34 times in last week's exhibition game vs. the New York Giants, and that was only just playing the first half. In portions of three preseason game, Flacco has thrown the ball 62 times while the three QB's have put the ball in the air 119 times, while only running it 82 times, including seven by Flacco.
The team upgraded its receiving corps this off-season and despite the broken foot suffered by Donte Stallworth that will keep hm out until at least the team's Bye week, opponents can no longer stack the box and dare Flacco to beat them through the air. If they do, they will pay dearly, as Joe has the skills, confidence and more importantly, the approval of his coaches to air it out at will. There is no question that Flacco is the leader of this offense as he barks out signals and directs traffic as the players come to the line of scrimmage. I once heard him snap off a few "expletive deleted's" at safety Tom Zbikowski during Training Camp when Zbi was talking trash on the goal line drills.
Flacco has grown up to the point that no one keeps harping on the kid who couldn't make it at a Division I school (Pittsburgh) so he had to transfer to little Delaware to get the playing time he wanted. Joe is now being mentioned in what most fantasy players call the "second tier" of QB's, behind the Peyton Mannings', Drew Brees' and Aaron Rodgers' of the NFL and in the same breath as the Carson Palmers', Eli Mannings' and the like.
While the Ravens will still have the reputation as a run-first offense, it's good to know as fans and even better to know that opposing defenses also know that this team now has a very dangerous offense to go aong with that very dangerous defense. Time to show us all what you've got, Joe. No more baby steps in 2010.