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After the Ravens completed their last practice Wednesday before beginning their bye-week break, quarterback Joe Flacco was asked if the workout had evolved into a mini-passing camp.
“It’s a little bit of everything, but yeah, it ends up being a kind of passing camp,” Flacco said.
No one would dispute that the Ravens’ passing game, currently ranked No. 31 in the league, needs attention. Before the Ravens practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said every area of the team would work on fundamentals, but acknowledged the passing game was a special project.
“When you look at other teams on TV or on tape, the teams that are making the plays downfield are the teams that are scoring the most points,” Harbaugh said Monday.
The Ravens’ struggles in that area are quantifiable. Their average of 5.3 yards per pass attempt is the league’s lowest figure by half a yard. They’re also last in the league in completions of at least 20 yards.
Asked what the offense needs going forward, receiver Mike Wallace said, “Big plays. We need to make big plays. As an offense, we move the cheap jerseys China ball down the field pretty well. We just need those big plays, the 50-yard, 60-yard touchdowns.”
The absence of “chunk” yardage completions means the offense has to grind out long scoring drives just to put points on the board.
“It’s tough to have a lot of those long drives and do that consistently,” Flacco said Wednesday. “You have to have some quick strikes in this league so you don’t have to convert four or five third downs every time you score a touchdown.”
Can the Ravens get their deep passing going when their season resumes against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 19? The prevailing sentiment around the Under Armour Performance Center is yes, they can.
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Why? For starters, there’ll be less injury-related uncertainty. Flacco was impacted early in the season by the back ailment that kept him out of training camp and the preseason. Just when he was getting healthy, Wallace and his fellow receivers, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman, all missed games because of injuries.
Everyone will be healthy in Green Bay, with Flacco and Maclin coming off a game in which their developing chemistry paid dividends. Maclin caught eight passes for 98 yards Sunday in Tennessee.
“Jeremy is a good player, He makes it easy. The more time you’re with him, the better things get,” Flacco said.
The Ravens also are expecting the return of veteran running back Danny Woodhead, who isn’t a deep threat but certainly is a proven target that defenses will need to monitor, conceivably opening up other areas.
“He can definitely have a big impact,” Flacco said.
Another element of a successful deep passing game is the willingness to attempt it, as opposed to playing more conservatively. The Ravens have been more cautious than most teams so far, as evidenced by Flacco’s average attempted pass distance of 6.9 yards, the second-shortest in the league, according to NextGen Stats. But that should change after the bye, Flacco said.
“We need to go after it. We can’t sit back and just expect us to not lose football games. We’ve got to go attack,” he said. “We’re a 4-5 football team. You always look at teams in this position and say, ‘Man, they’ve got nothing to lose.’ Man, we should feel that way. We’ve got to go out there and leave it all out there.”
Wallace is confident the pieces will come together.
“We’ve got the guys who can get that done, guys who can make those big plays,” he said. “Just need to emphasize that.”