A funny thing happened in Week 1: Flacco looked like a new quarterback. That’s a continuation of all the positive reports on him in training camp, and a solid preseason. Flacco tries to keep the positive momentum going against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, a game that can be seen on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android).
Last week against the Buffalo Bills, Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 47-3 win. He would have put up even bigger numbers had the Bills been more competitive.
Was it just a matter of lighting a fire under Flacco with the draft pick of Lamar Jackson in April?
Did the Lamar Jackson pick motivate Joe Flacco?
If you take a step back and think about it, it’s pretty insulting to Flacco to suggest that he’s playing better because the Ravens drafted Jackson in the first round. Flacco is a professional, and a highly paid one. He’s a competitor. He presumably wasn’t giving less than full effort to the Ravens the past couple years.
Yet, athletes find motivation in all different ways. Flacco certainly didn’t seem pleased that Jackson was brought aboard. For a while this offseason, one of the recurring stories was that Flacco wasn’t returning Jackson’s messages. Maybe that was just an honest miscommunication, but it’s safe to assume Flacco wasn’t thrilled.
The “Flacco is motivated after the Ravens drafted his successor” story is an easy one to buy into, but there are other tangible reasons Flacco might be in for a bounce-back season.
Flacco got a lot of help in the offseason
The Ravens didn’t give Flacco much to work with the past few seasons. Failed draft picks at receiver and tight end didn’t help. He was stuck with one of the worst groups of skill-position players in the league, and it showed in his mediocre stats.
The Ravens did quite well in the offseason, it seems. They signed Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. All three veterans are far better than what the Ravens had last season, and all of them caught a touchdown from Flacco in Week 1. Upgrade any quarterback’s top three receivers in one offseason, and they’ll improve.
Also, Flacco seems more healthy. Last season he was in danger of missing the start of the season with a back injury. He started the entire season but never seemed right. He threw just 18 touchdowns, his lowest 16-game total since his rookie season. It didn’t help to lose Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda early in the season, either.
Flacco looks healthier this season, and has a lot more options to throw to. That would have helped, no matter who the Ravens drafted in April.
Bengals ended Baltimore’s season last year
Thursday night is an interesting early season showdown. The Ravens and Bengals each got Week 1 wins off of overmatched teams. The Ravens pounded the Bills and the Bengals came back to beat the Indianapolis Colts. It’s hard to tell, after one week, how good either AFC North team is.
The Ravens also remember that the Bengals finished their season last year. In Week 17, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown on fourth-and-12 with less than a minute to go. That knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs and gave the Bills the final AFC postseason spot. It was one of the highlights of the NFL season, but not one the Ravens will remember fondly.
It all makes for an intriguing Thursday night game. And the most intriguing player on either side might be Flacco, as he tries to keep his career path on an upswing.
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