|Is Cameron responsible for Flacco's lack of consistency? (AP)|
By Ryan Wilson
Fair or not, quarterback Joe Flacco has been the Ravens' most scrutinized player this season. But that's part of the deal; as an NFL quarterback, he's the face of the franchise and in many respects, the most important cog in a machine built to win Super Bowls. Instead, 2011 has been marked by inconsistency. The results, predictably: fans have lost patience and the organization has yet to offer him a contract extension.
It doesn't help that he has thin skin and rabbit ears, even if he tries to joke that he doesn't pay attention to the criticism. But maybe this isn't all on Flacco.
That should be obvious but sometimes it's easier for fans and media to just wave their arms, lament the quarterback's ineffectiveness and not give it much thought beyond that. But NFL Films' Greg Cosell, who Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar describes as watching "more all-22 film than anyone not currently part of an NFL coaching staff," has a theory for why Flacco has struggled at points this season.
"The Ravens' receiving corps could be the absolute worst in the NFL when it comes to getting open versus man coverage," Cosell told Farrar. "They don't do an awful lot to get them open versus man — you don't see a lot of the stack release concepts, or all the "man-beater" concepts. No bunch, no stack release. No rub elements.
After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET.
"They don't do a lot to help their receivers win versus man," Cosell continued. "I'm not going to defend Flacco, but I think it's very difficult to … it seemed that last week [against the Houston Texans] the route tree was a go route and a screen. I said this to one of my guys [while I was watching the Baltimore] tape — 'I feel like I'm watching a 1960s offense.' Every play, there was one receiver to the right, and one receiver to the left, often two backs or two tight ends, and that was every play, it seemed."
The other culprit is one familiar to Ravens fans: offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. From Football Outsiders' AFC preview:
"In this era of multiple receivers and shotgun spreads, the Ravens actually run a fairly conventional, old-fashioned offense. Our charting lists the Ravens using two wide receivers on 56 percent of plays, the highest rate in the league."
That doesn't exactly scream innovation. And it's fair to assume that this lack of innovation may have something to do with Flacco's stunted development.
One receiver who appeared frustrated with the Texans' man coverage concepts: rookie deep threat Torrey Smith. Instead of waiting for Cameron to devise a scheme to help him get open, Smith took matters into his own hands. He's intimately familiar with the Patriots. Partly from watching film, but also from -- wait for it -- facing them so often in Madden.
"The biggest thing about New England is my brother always picks them in Madden," Smith said according to The Carroll County Times' Aaron Wilson. "They pretty much always have the best offense for some years in that game. I play with the Ravens all the time now."
Smith also talked about last spring's draft process, one that saw the Patriots very interested in the former Maryland product.
"I pretty much did everything you could do with New England as far as the draft process goes," he said. "I met with them at the combine, did a private workout, and I saw them around a lot. They have a great coaching staff, and you can see with the way their track record has been they know how to win."
Of course, Smith already knew that. You know, from Madden.
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