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Can Flacco continue to improve his downfield game in 2015?

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has long been known for his big arm and downfield passing ability, so it may come to a surprise to some that he had an atrocious year in that department in 2013. A porous offensive line, disappointing run game, and lackluster receiving group all contributed to his performance. Following the jettisoning of Anquan Boldin and a hip injury in camp for Dennis Pitta, Joe was missing 2 of his 4 top weapons to begin the year. But with Ray Rice lacking explosiveness, the offense essentially became the Joe and Torrey show. With Torrey Smith not exactly known for fighting for the ball in traffic or beating a jamming CB at the line, and  Jacoby Jones as the #2, Flacco's downfield numbers fell drastically.

Then came 2014. A new, proven offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak; a revamped offensive line with 3 new starters added since the beginning of 2013, plus a healthy guard combination; and more weapons at the skill positions in Steve Smith Sr, Owen Daniels, and Justin Forsett, the result was the best year of Flacco's career.

His downfield passing stats bounced back too:

Now comes 2015: A new offensive coordinator in Marc Trestman who is known for his passing attacks, a deeper array of receiving options including the aforementioned Smith, speedy rookies Breshad Perriman and Darren Waller, underrated possession receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown, the big tight end group of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle, a solid 3 deep run game, and most importantly an upper tier offensive line returning its top 7 players.

The Ravens are hoping the larger Perriman can replace Torrey Smith as a deep threat and more, and become an elite receiver, but for this season they just need him to stretch the field. This is the deepest receiving corp the Ravens have ever had, so anything else he brings to the table is a bonus.

But after a season which ended on an interception on a deep ball against the Patriots, a play many fans felt Torrey Smith could have given more effort to prevent, Perriman is a welcome change. The Ravens expect another step forward from Joe Flacco and the offense, and with his cannon of an arm, and I do not think that expectation is at all unrealistic.