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Joe Flacco’s checkdown passes aren’t benefitting him or the Baltimore Ravens’ offense.

Checkdowns have become a regular part of watching Baltimore Ravens football. The attempt to run the West Coast offense has been a frustrating spectacle to watch since the departure of Gary Kubiak in 2014. From Marc Trestman to  Marty Mornhinweg, the passing offense has largely revolved around these short throws, with no success.

We know the Ravens’ passing offense was horrendous last season. They averaged just 189.4 yards per game and failed to provide any threat in that area of the game. But whether the Ravens have had a top 10 or bottom five passing game, checkdowns have always been an integral part of the offense.

Scott Kacsmar and the folks over Football Outsiders took a look at exactly what the Ravens have relied on in recent years. They’re called failed completions. Football Outsiders defines the stat as “any completed pass that fails to gain 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third or fourth down.”
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Of the 35 qualified quarterbacks on the list, Joe Flacco had the second highest failed completion percentage last season (36.1%). He finished only in front of rookie Mitchell Trubisky. The bottom five quarterbacks consisted of Brett Hundley, Brian Hoyer, Deshone Kizer, Trubisky and Flacco himself. Two were rookies, two were backups and one was a 10-year veteran. Can you guess who the outlier is?

Joe Flacco has struggled but the blame doesn’t fall solely on him. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg loves the dink-and-dunk passing offense. That may have worked in his previous stints but the Ravens are a completely different team. The reality is, they don’t have the personnel to fit the checkdown system. Flacco is a big-armed quarterback who’s past his mobile stage. At receiver, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Jeremy Maclin are all vertical threats. There’s a reason they don’t benefit from short-intermediate passes.

This doesn’t mean short throws and checkdown passes can’t be part of the offense, they just shouldn’t be the primary mode of production. A softspoken Flacco has even publicly advocated for more deep shots. When you have a quarterback who can unleash the football 60-70 yards, you want to play to his strengths. Aside from Week 5 win over the Raiders, the Ravens rarely incorporated deep throws into the passing game last season.

Since 2014, Flacco’s has posted career highs in completion percentage. It seems positive on the surface until you look further.  Flacco’s yards gained per pass attempt was a career low in 2017 (5.7). It’s gradually declined since the 2014 season, arguably Flacco’s best year. Completing passes is great but when they’re gaining minimal yards with no points on the board, that’s a problem. The checkdown passes aren’t benefitting Flacco or the Ravens offense right now and that’s a major problem.