Harbaugh on pass protection: Always a chess game
Joe Flacco has been sacked 30 times this year, and there are still seven games left.
That’s easily on pace to top Flacco’s most-sacked season, 2010, when he was dumped 40 times. Only Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins (37 sacks) and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers (35) have been sacked more, while Geno Smith (30 sacks) of the Jets is tied with Flacco.
Think the Bears will throw some blitzes at the Ravens this Sunday? You bet. Picking up extra pass rushers has been one the Ravens’ biggest problems. When defenses gamble against the Ravens and leave the secondary in one-on-one coverage, the Ravens have not made opponents pay.
“Teams are coming after us a little bit and we’re kind of letting them,” Flacco said. “We’re not really doing anything to combat it. We haven’t been good enough to stop it and do other things to get them out of it. It makes those guys’ job tough up front.”
Some of the sacks have been on Flacco for holding the ball too long. But on some blitzes, defenders have had a clear path to Flacco, giving him little chance to throw.
“The number one way to stop any offense is to put pressure on the quarterback,” Flacco said. “It definitely affects you in some way. We’ve got to be good in the stuff we do. We’ve got to hit them with stuff that makes it hurt. You’re going to put guys up in there, you’re going to double-mug guys, you’re going to bring guys off the edge, you’re going to play one-on-one coverage? We‘ve got to make it hurt. We just haven’t been good enough to make teams feel the effect, or the negative effects of them doing it.”
Personnel changes in the Ravens’ offensive line have hurt the unit’s continuity. This is Gino Gradkowski’s first season as a starting center, calling out blocking assignments up front. Gradkowski’s experience making adjustments pales in comparison to retired center Matt Birk. The left side of the Ravens’ line has also changed since Week 1, with tackle Eugene Monroe replacing the traded Bryant McKinnie, and guard A. Q. Shipley replacing the injured Kelechi Osemele.
“If you look around the league, you’re going to see that it’s tough picking up blitzes,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “Our issue right now is the pressures. Being on the same page and picking up the pressures when they make them complicated for you. When they attack a protection where you can’t pick everybody up, then we’ve got to get the ball out to the right guy. Other times, we’ve got to get the back to the right spot. Other times we’ve got to get the line to the right spot. That’s always a chess game in there. The more experienced lines are always going to do a little bit better with that. We’ve got to keep building toward that. I know we can do it.”
Flacco hopes the Ravens do it soon. Or his body will take a lot more punishment.