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The Season Six Leap

Some of today's elite quarterbacks have shown that a leap in year six of their career is certainly possible.

Justin K. Aller

There is precedent that suggests a season six leap is a possibility for Joe Flacco. The fans of the Baltimore Ravens are certainly hoping that is true, as the team will need to rely on reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco more than they have had to in the last five years. With the departure of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Flacco will need to not only be a leader, but also have a career year if the Ravens hope to keep the Lombardi Trophy where it currently resides.

Joe Flacco certainly performed like a superstar in the playoffs last year, but he has never reached those heights in his five regular seasons. Performances by some of the game’s elite quarterbacks would suggest that Flacco might be on his way to a "Season Six Leap." Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers (all arguments of current status aside) provide the best examples for an outstanding 2013 campaign for the Ravens’ signal caller.

Here are the numbers. Below is a per game average of their first five seasons in the NFL:

Player Cmp Per Game Att Per Game Yards Per Game TDs Per Game INTs Per Game Comp % Rating
Drew Brees 19.07 30.66 209.29 1.36 0.90 60.82 86.64
Ben Roethlisberger 16.51 26.46 207.97 1.40 0.96 62.80 91.26
Philip Rivers 17.12 27.46 205.71 1.50 0.69 62.32 88.24

These numbers seem very pedestrian for players who turned into dominate passers. Now let’s take a look at their number from the sixth season of their career:

Player Cmp Per Game Att Per Game Yards Per Game TDs Per Game INTs Per Game Comp % Rating
Drew Brees 22.25 34.63 276.13 1.63 0.69 63.30 96.20
Ben Roethlisberger 22.47 33.73 288.53 1.73 0.80 66.80 100.5
Philip Rivers 19.81 30.38 265.88 1.75 0.56 65.20 104.4

These three quarterbacks made a pretty significant jump in their 6th year in the league. At this point, much like Flacco, they were handed the keys to the offense. They were trusted to throw the ball more and they did so with greater efficiency. Despite their attempts rising, their interceptions all dropped and their completion percentage increased. On average their attempts rose by 17.01%, while their interceptions dropped by almost 20%. Completion percentage jumped by 5.57% and that would be a welcomed increase to Flacco’s numbers. If we use the data from Big Ben, Rivers and Brees, we can extrapolate what Flacco’s numbers might look like if he made a similar leap:

Cmp Per Game Att Per Game Yards Per Game TDs Per Game INTs Per Game Comp % Rating
First 5 Season 18.84 31.11 220.41 1.275 0.70 60.54 86.28
Season 6 Projection 23.14 36.41 293.82 1.53 0.56 63.92 97.63
Over 16 Games 370.21 582.48 4701.17 24.49 9.01 63.92 97.63

The one thing that should be noted is the running game factor. In the sixth season of Brees, Rivers and Roethlisberger’s career featured an offense that was pass-happy. Brees was on the New Orleans Saints, LaDainian Tomlinson was having the worst year of his career (730 yards) and the Steelers running game looks a lot like it does today. Joe Flacco has the luxury of an outstanding running game with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. So barring injuries in the backfield, I would predict that Joe’s attempts will not make a jump to anywhere near 35 per game (which will also bring the completions and yards per game down). With that being said, the efficiency numbers are something to get excited about. If Joe can get his QB Rating (for what it’s worth) in the high 90s, completion percentage above 63% and a TD-INT ratio of +15, the Ravens will have one of the more dynamic offenses in the AFC.

Ravens fans would certainly welcome those numbers next year. We all expect Joe Flacco to take another step forward and I think if Joe comes out with somewhere near these numbers, the Ravens will have a very good offensive season. Fans will be looking for the offense to carry more of the load this year and that will all start with a "Season Six Leap" from Joe Flacco.