WR a priority? Not when you have Joe Flacco
Quarterbacks can make life easy for a receiver. He can make them look real good on the stat sheet by making crisp passes that land right on the numbers. He can do a great job leading the receiver perfectly so he catches the ball in stride and racks up a ton of yards after catch. He can keep him healthy by not killing him; throwing high when going over the middle. Quarterbacks, elite ones, can make any receiver look good. Not the other way around. A receiver will make a couple, but not a bunch of circus catches to bail his QB out. A prime example is Larry Fitzgerald. Superb receiver, but he can only do so much. He was targeted 153 times in each of the last two seasons, racking up 1,411 yards in 2011 and 798 yards in 2012. It was his lowest output since his rookie year in 2004. Could be thanks in large part to the Cardinals playing games with their 3rd and 4th string QB’s, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer for part of the season.
This is why signing a weak free agent wide-out, or trading coveted draft picks to acquire another receiver, doesn’t necessarily have to be in the Ravens plans. If you think the Ravens need to sign a mediocre, aging vet WR, in order to solidify the offense, then you probably were not giving Joe Flacco the huge contract. Besides, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Lee Evans, how did that work out?
We can put the argument to bed, and say that entering week 1, Joe Flacco is a top five quarterback. He’s number five in my opinion behind Peyton, Brady, Rodgers and Brees. These guys get the job done year in and year out, making their receivers look better than they might actually be. How do some receivers fair without the luxury of an elite QB throwing their way.
Wes Welker – In five years where Tom Brady has been slinging it his way, he averages 117.2 catches and 1,322.2 yards. In the three seasons without Brady, Welker averaged 60.7 catches and 656.3 yards per. That includes two full seasons in Miami, and one in New England with Matt Cassel where he racked up 86 catches and 848 yards at age 29. Does an elite QB help boost Welker’s numbers? Safe to say he’s great with Brady but just good otherwise? You bet. He’s lucky to be going from one future HOFer to another in Denver now.
Marques Colston – Never played with anyone but the great Drew Brees. But it’s not like this guy was a stud in college. His best season included just 51 catches for 910 yards as a junior at the football juggernaut, Hofstra. The league has seen its fair share of successful small school receivers. Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens. But is Colston a product of the system, and a great QB who has notched a 70% completion percentage season? Only time will tell with that one.
Brandon Stokley – Played just one full season in his first five years in the NFL. In that full season of 2001 with Elvis Grbac at the helm, Stokley put up just 344 yards. The next full season for him was 2004 with Indy and Peyton Manning. Stokley went over 1,000 yards for the only time in his career. Reunited with Peyton in 2012, after only having one catch in two games with the Giants in 2011, he got the 36 year old Stokley a respectable 544 yards and five TDs as their third receiver.
Dallas Clark – Regarded as one of the NFLs best TEs when Peyton was throwing to him. As he came into his own, Clark’s numbers increased each year, culminating in an All-Pro season in 2009 where he caught 100 balls for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs. Last season in Tampa Bay was his first full season since 2009, and Clark only caught 47 balls for 435 yards from Josh Freeman.
Joe Flacco is getting paid the big bucks for the games he has won and the postseason accolades. But they are also paying him with expectations of that postseason production to carry on through 2013 and beyond. Flacco will have to do it without his most sure handed receiver, Anquan Boldin. But he’s not the first QB to lose a favorite target. Peyton Manning lost Marvin Harrison. Brady has had to make do without Randy Moss and his 50 TDs in three plus seasons, and now has to go at it without Wes Welker. Aaron Rodgers lost Donald Driver, and now Greg Jennings. I doubt he misses a beat with Jordy Nelson and James Jones as primary targets now.
Like the other elite QBs, it should be up to Flacco to make a star out of guys like Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, or Aaron Mellete. It’s up to him to make Jacoby Jones a Pro Bowl candidate at wide receiver instead just a kick return threat. With more two TE sets becoming prominent in the offense, it’s up to him to make Pitta and Dickson the next Gronkowski and Hernandez. We would be remised if we forgot about Torrey Smith as well. Flacco needs to put Torrey in the best position to avoid any type of regression.
Is all of this a lot to ask of Joe Flacco? Maybe it is. But when you look at his contract, maybe it isn’t. What it boils down to is this. If we’re not left saying, “we should have never traded Anquan Boldin,” then it means two things. The Ravens are winning games, and Joe Flacco is doing just fine. That’s really all you can ask for.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]