Alan Williams knows what makes Joe Flacco special. It’s not the poorly-groomed eyebrows, the icy-cold stare, the Spock-like demeanor. It’s the deep ball.
“He throws the deep ball well,” Williams said when asked to name the one thing Flacco does best. “When the DB’s back is covered he still throws it to them and they’re coming up with big plays.”
The large majority of Flacco’s big plays have gone to one guy, the speedy wide-out Torrey Smith. Williams said, “I think [Torrey] Smith may have 17 20+ pass plays down the field [this is correct]. They have a good chemistry working there.”
Flacco’s overall stats may not be what you would expect from a Super Bowl champion QB who in the offseason signed a $120 million contract. He is currently 28th in the league in QB rating, while sporting an unimpressive 15/14 TD-to-INT ratio.
But there are a couple factors working against Flacco this year. He is getting sacked a lot (39 times, second only to Ryan Tannehill) and he has no running game (Baltimore is 29th in the league at 81.1 yards-per-game).
So the bad season is not entirely Flacco’s fault. In fact, if the offense has anything at all going for it right now, it’s Flacco’s own God-given ability. No matter what else is going down, Flacco can still chuck it deep. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are threats to go over-the-top at any time, and this is something Alan Williams is obviously acutely aware of.
Alshon Jeffery’s performance against the Vikings last weekend probably looms large in Williams’ mind right now. Jeffery torched the defense for a pair of long scores, both coming on the defensive right, where Chris Cook lines up at corner.
Cook’s coverage issues have become more glaring as Xavier Rhodes has developed and offenses have started throwing away from him. The threat of Torrey Smith lining up and burning Cook might be giving Williams some indigestion.
The obvious adjustment, given Smith’s speed, Flacco’s big arm and the Ravens’ lack of a proven running game, would be to go zone. In recent weeks the Vikes have used more man coverage, which allows for more blitzing and theoretically puts corners in better position to make big plays, but the match-up this weekend indicates heavy Cover-2 action.
Drop into two deep and dare the Ravens to run. This becomes a slightly less attractive approach if TE Dennis Pitta is able to return this weekend from his hip injury and show anything like his old form.
Naturally, pass rush is a key no matter what. Brian Robison and the gang will need to crank it up against a pretty bad offensive line. Flacco has been compensating for the lack of protection recently by trying to run around more, but he’s not exactly Russell Wilson out there.
The Vikes aren’t concerned about what Flacco can do with his legs, with Flacco it’s all about the long ball. The strategy will be to minimize the deep threat and try to keep everything underneath.