Posted: Monday September 3, 2012 1:35AM ; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2012 1:56PM
Peter King
Peter King>MONDAY MORNING QB

MMQB (cont.)

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco could exceed his career season-high of 3,622 yards this season if the Ravens open up the offense more as expected.
AP

Could this be the year Baltimore's offense actually is better than the D?

I can see it. The Ravens don't have a strong pass rush without Terrell Suggs. I'm through writing off Ray {Freak of Nature] Lewis, but he's 37, and Ed Reed turns 34 next week. At some point, if Joe Flacco's going to convince the world he's a big-timer, he has to play big with an offense that doesn't lead the league in weaponry.

That sometime might be this year. And Flacco might just be his best this season because he should be playing no-huddle, and playing fast, for much of the season. Flacco ran the no-huddle most often in college at Delaware, but hasn't done that much of it as a pro. He told me last week he's "looking at our offense as total no-huddle ... as 100 percent no-huddle.''

Look at the advantages this could bring Baltimore. Count them:

1. Jim Caldwell, the new Ravens quarterback coach, has come from the laboratory of the no-huddle with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. For seven years, from 2002 to 2008, he was Manning's quarterback coach; for the following three, he was head coach of the Colts. That's nine prime seasons (not counting 2011, obviously) that Caldwell was heavily involved the best no-huddle offense the NFL has ever seen.

2. Flacco looks faster in the no-huddle this preseason, in part because he likes it so much. You'd never put Flacco in the top five of quick quarterback decision-makers, based on what you've seen to this point in his four NFL seasons. He's not plodding, but he's not RGIII-like either. But he's looked rhythmic in the preseason in this new offense.

Against Jacksonville in the Ravens' third preseason game, Flacco ran 48 plays in 36 minutes, about 41 of them in the no-huddle offense. (First plays of series, or play after timeouts, are usually run after huddling.) Jacksonville's defense is pretty good -- sixth in the league last year -- but Flacco raced to a 20-3 lead against them by the time he exited, with just over 24 minutes to play. The Jaguars, from the looks of the Baltimore pace, just couldn't match the Ravens' tempo.

Peter King's one minute drill: Ravens
Source: SI
SI.com's Peter King previews the 2012 season for the Baltimore Ravens.

3. Baltimore has the personnel to run the no-huddle, and to stretch the opposing D. The Ravens will start two speed receivers on the outside -- second-year man Torrey Smith and ex-Texan Jacoby Jones -- with Anquan Boldin in the slot and Ed Dickson and red-zone threat Dennis Pitta at tight end. And from the first of OTAs, the team has been concentrating on the no-huddle, practicing it constantly.

4. Baltimore's arch rival, the Steelers, has some age on defense. The Ravens think it's an advantage to keep Pittsburgh's defensive starters on the field. Why? Seven of them are past 30. It's an obvious edge to the no-huddle: Tire foes out.

5. The side benefit of the no-huddle, other than to tire out the defense, is to limit substitution and make the defense simplify what it does. Without the substitution, and with the fast pace of the offense, defenders probably aren't going to be as imaginative in play-calls. They just want to survive.

"I think the no-huddle can add a couple of minutes to the game for us,'' Flacco said. "I think we could get another possession per game out of it. The bottom line is, I'm happy we're doing it. Very happy. Defenses have gotten so complicated. When you slow it down and get into a huddle before every play, you're playing into their hands, allowing them to dictate the tempo of the game. This way, we take control of the game.''

Another reason quarterbacks like the no-huddle is it puts so much in the quarterback's hands. "I never dreamed I'd be giving the quarterback so much independence,'' said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, which I wrote about in the SI NFL preview issue. But that's just what McCarthy's done. And I think he'll give Aaron Rodgers more of the no-huddle this year. "We just might,'' Rodgers said with a sly smile at training camp.

In Baltimore's no-huddle, when Flacco has a three-by-one look -- three receivers to one side, one to the other -- he'll have a choice of four or five passes to throw. He knows which one is likely to work depending on which defense he sees across the line. He can back up from center and change the play. He can back up and change the protection. He can dictate a change simply by how he calls the cadence.

"It puts a lot on the quarterback,'' said Flacco, "but that's something I really like.''

One more thing: Ray Rice is a very good receiver out of the backfield.

With a system Flacco prefers to run, I wouldn't be surprised if he raises his mediocre completion percentage (57.6 last year) and looks like a different player. When you like doing something, you throw more of yourself into it.

I also don't see it as much of a possibility that Flacco plays anywhere else, at least in the foreseeable future. His contract expires after this year, and there's been some gnashing of teeth in Baltimore that he's entering his final year without a deal being done. "I'm not obsessing about it,'' he said. "If I was obsessing about it, I'd have held out. I'm optimistic I'll get paid one way or the other, and I anticipate I'll be here a long time. Once I sign, I'm pretty sure I'll be here for the long haul.''

***

The NFL and the Army make a pact, but will it work?

Last Thursday, an hour up the Hudson River from NFL offices in New York, the Army and the NFL signed an agreement to share medical research about concussions and head trauma. The theory is simple: Soldiers in battle are dealing more and more with the impact of concussions, and all military branches are training their troops to know the warning signs of head injuries. In football, players are being taught to recognize the signs of head trauma and concussions, and are being told to leave the game when they've been concussed.

When Goodell and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, met at West Point Thursday, they had much in common. Both are dealing with employees who, left to themselves, most often won't admit they're having trouble after being hit in the head. Guess which man, Goodell or Odierno, said this during a panel discussion about head trauma in football and the military: "I worry about our leaders more than anything else. They're the ones who won't take themselves out. They feel the burden of leadership.''

It was Odierno speaking, but those are the sentiments that have worried those in the NFL who legitimately want to address the problem. Odierno and Goodell both said they had programs in place that would make it easier for employees to self-report a problem, and, in fact, encourage them to report a problem. "We need these policies to protect us from ourselves,'' former player and now NFL executive Troy Vincent said Thursday. "You stay on the field in the heat of battle.'' And former Giants and Niner Bart Oates said he'd stay in the game if he had a concussion, and would try to hide it from teammates if need be.

"Culture changes don't happen overnight,'' Goodell said.

For them to happen at all, technology will have to help. The Army is spending liberally now to do some research that interests the NFL very much. One of the areas: trying to discover if biomarkers can determine through small blood samples from pin-pricks whether a person has been concussed or is undergoing head trauma.

The merging of medical minds makes sense, and the technology on the Army's side should help NFL players in recovery from, and treatment of, head trauma. But it won't be a perfect solution until players do what Kurt Warner did during his last year in football -- leave one game and choose to sit the next despite not being forced to sit by a doctor. Warner feared the long-term impact of head trauma, and he remembers the questioning looks from his teammates, as in, Are you really hurt? But he thought more of his future than his present. It's a lesson players and soldiers need to learn better.

"Pride has no place for certain injuries,'' said Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Hibbard, who has taken troops into battle in Afghanistan. "You get hit by a 500-pound bomb, you probably have to come out.''

Same goes for getting hit in the head by a 260-pound middle linebacker. That's why the NFL and the Army make a good match.

***

Odds and ends entering the season.

I wanted to let you know about my weekly schedule, and when you can expect to read, see and hear me, and how you can help me make this column better in 2012.

First, Monday Morning Quarterback enters its 16th season on the web, making it -- I believe -- the longest-running Internet column on the NFL. I'll have a couple of new things this year. One: In cooperation with ProFootballFocus.com, I'm going to have a piece of the column each week focusing on one of the key matchups of the weekend. Maybe it's a receiver-cornerback matchup, or how a defense tries to pen in a mobile quarterback, or how an offense tries to use no-huddle to dictate to the defense. Each week, I'll find a subplot you'll all be talking about, and ProFootballFocus.com will do the studying and provide you an inside look at one of the compelling angles of the NFL weekend.

Two: This is where you come in. I am going to allow readers of this column -- via email or on Twitter @SI_PeterKing -- to suggest a segment of the column you'd like to see. Maybe it's Good Guy of the Week, Overrated Bum of the Week, Invisible Offensive Lineman of the Week, Coaching Decision You'd Never Have Made, etc. You suggest it to me, and next week, in the first regular season week of the column, I'll pick one and implement it, and we'll see how it goes. (The examples I just gave ... just throwing things out there. Come up with any idea you'd like.) Send me your ideas by Thursday of this week and I'll pick one. Thanks for that.

So here's the weekly lineup:

Monday: Monday Morning Quarterback, posted weekly by 8:30 a.m. (I hope.)

Tuesday: By noon, my Tuesday column and email bag should be posted on SI.com ... And late in the afternoon, the SI NFL Podcast with Peter King will be up on iTunes and SI.com. My special guests for Week 1: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Arizona wideout Larry Fitzgerald. I'll have a guest spot in the morning on Colin Cowherd's radio show on ESPN, and a longer one in the afternoons (4 p.m. Eastern, most likely) with Chris Russo on "Mad Dog Radio'' on SiriusXM Channel 86.

Wednesday (This week only): Debut of Football Night in America before Giants-Cowboys at the Meadowlands. Every week, I'll also be doing a Midweek Report video for SI.com.

Thursday: My weekly game picks on SI.com (By the way, you have the chance to take me on in fantasy each week this year in our new Peter King Fantasy Challenge) ... Radio spot with Mitch Levy on KJR in Seattle at 7 a.m. Pacific.

Friday: My Friday Game Plan column previewing the weekend's games will be posted on SI.com, along with my Final Word video ... Radio spot with Mut and Merloni on WEEI in Boston at noon Eastern ... NBC Sports Network NFL programming, live from NBC Sports Network studios in Stamford, Conn., from 5-7 p.m., with Mike Florio, whose Pro Football Talk Live show will air from 5-6 p.m., followed by an hour of football talk with Doug Flutie, Hines Ward, me and others.

Saturday: In the NBC Studios in New York for seven Notre Dame football halftime shows, with Mike Florio.

Sunday: In the NBC studios in New York for Football Night in America prep work, and the show, at 7 p.m. Eastern ... Then a night of writing.

Should be fun. Send me your ideas for MMQB. Excited about getting my 29th season covering the NFL underway.

***

The kid went and did it.

Well, in the span of seven months, Ohio's beaten Michigan in basketball and Penn State in football. That's a little heady for my alma mater. Actually, it's a lot heady. I introduced you to the kid in the middle of the football headiness, quarterback Tyler Tettleton, last week, and I figured you'd want to hear his reaction after Ohio 24, Penn State 14, with Ohio churning out 499 yards of total offense and Tettleton a 31-of-41 afternoon.

Tettleton was, well, reserved Sunday afternoon, 24 hours after walking off the field in Unhappy Valley.

"It really didn't hit me 'til today, what we did,'' Tettleton said from his apartment in Athens. "I got back and watched the highlights on TV and said, 'Wow, we beat Penn State.'

"The day, the whole scene, was great. When we got to the stadium, you could just feel how they were ready to move on and start a new era. They were so into it. So spirited. They were some of the best fans, all of them. In the pregame, I felt the emotion, but once the game started, all of that went out the window. It was another game. You're just playing.''

Down 14-3 in the third quarter, the 6-foot Tettleton had OU at the Penn State 43. Third and seven. He threw a ball off his back foot, slightly behind wideout Landon Smith. As soon as the ball left his hand, Tettleton wanted to slap himself. He said he thought, Oh crap. Why'd I do that?

"Probably one of the dumbest throws I've made in a while,'' he said.

The ball ricocheted off a Penn State defender's hands, into Smith's, and Smith ran for a 43-yard touchdown. "You saved me!'' Tettleton told Smith.

More Tettleton: "After the game I kind of thought I might be all emotional, but I wasn't. I saw my mom, and she hugged me. She was in tears. She knew this was what I wanted, the chance to play in games like this. Then we got on the bus. It was five and a half hours back to campus.''

Tettleton and his mates were the toasts of Court Street, the main street in Athens where the team went to be patted on the back around 11 Saturday night. Rumor has it the students had had a few beers before the team arrived.

"What's the weirdest sight you saw on Court Street?'' I asked.

He thought a few seconds. "The weirdest thing ... well, I'd say seeing people wearing my jersey. I mean, I can't get used to that. It's crazy. I don't like the spotlight much. I'm just glad we were able to do this for the university. I'm blessed to be here. I always think of the programs that passed on me because they didn't think I could do it. These coaches took a shot on me.''

Tettleton sounded like an NFL quarterback, the more he talked. "Penn State's over,'' he said. "Now it's time to focus on New Mexico State.''

***

Cause of the Week.

I'll be running my second half-marathon on Sept. 29, the Hamptons Half-Marathon on eastern Long Island ... assuming I don't break something (like my spirit) in training beforehand. I'm running to benefit retired NFL special-teamer Steve Gleason's efforts to build an ALS House in the city of New Orleans -- an inpatient residence to serve patients with neuro-muscular diseases and allow them to live as independently as possible.

Gleason is living with ALS, having been diagnosed with the disease in 2011, and figures the residence will cost between $750,000 and $1 million to build and maintain. He has plans to open it within the next six months, but he needs money to do that, and that's where you come in. (Actually, JP Morgan Chase is on the verge of chipping in a good chunk of the funding, but much more is needed.)

My goal is probably a silly one: I want to raise $50,000 for the ALS House. But I figure quite a few of you read the column, and I'll promote it here and on Twitter, and if you can give $5 or $10 or $100, I'll take anything you can muster and be eternally grateful.

I'm pledging a minimum of $1,000 to the cause -- that's if I finish the run in 2 hours 20 minutes or less. I'll give an additional $1,000 if I either don't finish or run slower than 2:20. I've already thrown in the first $1,000. As Gleason has said to me: "Hope you're really slow that day." Here's how you can contribute.

Thanks for your support. If you can't contribute, send some good conditioning karma my way. I'll need it. In my last race, in New Hampshire in 2010, I finished a few seconds faster than 2:20. Judging by my 10-mile plod through Central Park and beyond Saturday, 2:20 would be a dream race for in 26 days.

We've already had a few donations, for which I'm hugely grateful. But I'm not sure I can grant the wish of a Mark Hughes, who donated $100 to the cause. "I'll donate $1,000 if Peter King chugs a beer at every mile,'' Mark wrote.

Perhaps another time.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: Washington Wizards Albert Pujols Mock NFL Draft Drake Russell Allen Toronto Raptors
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint