BEREA: The Baltimore Ravens have Joe Flacco, a strong-armed quarterback in his prime.
They also feature Ray Rice, a diminutive and elusive running back, Torrey Smith, a productive young receiver, and a veteran defense that’s as revered as any in the NFL.
Now, they are using a no-huddle offense that is showcasing all of that offensive talent.
Flacco, 27, has led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons in the NFL, but never all the way through them. He hopes the no-huddle approach will be the final piece of the puzzle.
“We have the athletes and guys who have the experience here to make it work,” Flacco said on the league’s weekly teleconference call. “Last year, we had a couple of guys who were young who now have the experience. Having the athletes is a reason to do it because you can take advantage of quick little things where you just get the ball in their hands and allow them to do the work afterwards.”
The concept has worked well for the Ravens (2-1) as they prepare to host the Browns (0-3) tonight at M&T Bank Stadium.
Through the first three games, Flacco has thrown for 913 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. The Ravens rank first in the AFC in yards per play and second in total yards per game.
They also rank first in passing yards per game, first downs and points and are third in rushing yards per attempt. The no-huddle has simplified Flacco’s decision making.
“When you can get defenses to give you a certain look just because you’re going at a high tempo, it makes our job a little easier in determining what to do,” he said.
Despite his overall success, Flacco has been labeled as inconsistent for not leading such a talented team to the Super Bowl.
“I’ve always been a Joe Flacco fan,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I thought he’s always been a good, top-level quarterback in this league. There are times when I don’t understand the criticism — and I don’t coach the man.”
Now the Browns’ struggling defense gets its shot at containing Flacco and the Ravens’ high-powered offense and will have to do it without suspended cornerback Joe Haden.
“It’s hard,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “[Flacco’s] got great speed now at the receiver positions and he’s got a very strong arm, so he can reach about anywhere on the field with the ball. If the play lasts longer than you anticipate, it’s hard to defend it.”
Still, Jauron shared his designs on at least trying to slow down the Ravens.
“We would like to disrupt them coming off the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We just have to try to change up what we do. We like to press. Pressing speed is a little bit scary, but you can’t just let them run at you either. It’s got to be a combination of everything. The pass rush has to put pressure on [Flacco] so he’s not comfortable and can’t measure every throw. Then we’re going to have to be on top of people down the field because they can run and he can throw it a long ways.”
Add the no-huddle to the mix and it could spell disaster for the inexperienced Browns defense.
“As we got towards the end of preseason, we spent a lot more time moving fast in our periods, trying to get lined up and move fast while the offense attacked us,” Jauron said. “It never really simulates exactly what it’s like on game day, but at least it helps us and makes them aware that they’ve got to be ready.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.