Between the loss to the Texans, the bye week and the game against the Cleveland Browns, one could understand if Flacco's confidence isn't exactly peaking right now. His last decent performance came on October 14 at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Even that day, however, he threw for just 234 yards and a single touchdown. It's been well over a month since we've seen a truly dominating Joe Flacco.
So what's wrong? What adjustments do Flacco and the offense need to make to get back on track?
The answer is threefold.
First, the play-calling must get back to involving Ray Rice far more often.
Cam Cameron has been criticized a few times this season for the play-calling in Ravens games. That criticism has been warranted.
It seems like Joe Flacco is looking to hit a deep pass far too often on long-yardage second-down plays, ultimately forcing the Ravens to face daunting third downs. The easiest solution to this? Get the ball to Rice.
Whether it be a run play to gain three or four yards or a pass to Rice in the flats or as a checkdown, picking up those few extra yards helps enormously on third down. It opens the playbook up and forces defenses to consider a wider variety of potential plays.
Not to mention that going for these more conservative second-down options will force defenses to anticipate them and will give more space to a wideout like Torrey Smith to get free so Joe can hit those long bombs more often when they are called for.
When Ray Rice is your most dynamic and gifted player on offense, he needs to see the ball much more often.
The second part of fixing Joe's problems is to get Joe back to basics.
As I mentioned in the first part of this article, Flacco is looking deep far too often.
It also seems like he's trying to force himself to hit one deep pass to restore his confidence. That isn't the approach that will help him get back on his game.
Finding receivers for plays of five to fifteen yards would do wonders for Joe. Those passes are much easier to complete and can quickly turn into a long drive that ends up putting points on the board. Completing passes at a rate of 60 percent and putting points on the board is sure to help out Flacco's psyche.
Relying a bit more on the shorter yardage throws would also help minimize the effects of a less-than-stellar offensive line and make it harder for pass rushers to exploit.
The final area of Joe Flacco's game that needs work is his pocket presence.
While the offensive line may be struggling mightily this season, Flacco is still to blame for not throwing balls out of bounds before he gets rocked by a defender.
Flacco gets sacked far too often, and each of those sacks can leave a bruise—both physically and mentally. Knowing when a defender is coming up behind him is something that Flacco still has trouble with.
He's also too content to take a sack instead of throwing balls away and saving his team from losing yardage.
At this point, Flacco is mired in a funk. Luckily, it's nothing that can't be fixed with a few adjustments. Hopefully he can figure things out and turn his game around sooner rather than later—or the Ravens could find themselves in trouble as the tougher part of their schedule approaches.
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