Zach Wilson trained with the New York Jets this week as he rehabilitates a torn meniscus and a bone bruise in his right knee. But he won’t make his 2022 debut in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Instead, those duties will fall to Joe Flacco, the backup quarterback who has aged as a backup quarterback. Flacco, 37, hasn’t started more than half the games in a season since 2018. He’s 0-5 as a Jets starter the past two seasons, replacing Wilson and Sam Darnold to claim its place on the New York carousel. of fleeting sadness.
Now he must face the perpetually fearsome defense of the Ravens, a unit that fell in 2021 but added Marcus Williams, Kyle Fuller, rookie Kyle Hamilton and a healthy Marlon Humphrey/Marcus Peters combination to its secondary for 2022.
That’s a tough sled for any quarterback, let alone one who’s thrown just 176 passes in two years. But while the Ravens’ -7 spread is sure to climb after the announcement — it’s already gone from -5.5 thanks to QB uncertainty in northern New Jersey — Baltimore isn’t a lock to cover. Joe Flacco, and I really can’t believe I’m saying this in the year of grace 2022, is better than you think.
Flacco was the Jets’ best quarterback last season. It was not a high bar to cross, but he crossed it anyway. He led the team in touchdown rate, yards per attempt, and passer rating.
Granted, one of his two appearances came on cleanup duty in a blistering loss to the Bills. Even so, he did everything as well as he could have before meeting expectations a week later against the Dolphins and their top-10 defensive end (24 of 39, 291 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions). 54 of those yards came in desperation after the game had already been decided, but Flacco was the starting quarterback in a division game that was tied early in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t *all* fluff.
If you set the qualifying standards low enough, Flacco was a top 10 quarterback according to NFL Next Gen Stats’ Expected Points Added (EPA) and Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) metrics:
It’s mostly nonsense – you only have to look at the other names on this list to know it’s not *really* a top 10 (Gardner Minshew! Josh Johnson!) – but it mostly serves to show that Flacco can be a useful short-term filler.
That’s not the most important factor to consider when worryingly dropping a few bucks on the Jets for cover, though. That’s it his young foster body seems to prefer him on the player New York hopes to be its franchise quarterback.
“There’s definitely a difference,” first-round rookie pick Garrett Wilson told reporters during training camp. “It’s a lot of experience with Flacco. I want everything with him, he picks up the pace, puts the rhythm on the ball. He does a good job of making passes friendly to receivers. That’s the best way I can put it into words. They are quite easy to catch. Takes a little bit of the ball off when riding an oblique route to an outside route, put some zip on it because it has to be. Things like that.”
It’s a big problem ! New York has several inexperienced point guards looking to make their mark on the league. That includes Wilson, sophomore Elijah Moore, and tailbacks Breece Hall (rookie) and Michael Carter (sophomore). Flacco’s presence—his CPOE of 5.4 was light years ahead of Wilson’s -9.6 (!!)—leaves a bit more lead for a group of prospects hoping to take flight.
Moreover, Flacco will not have to assume the burden himself. Hall and Carter are a dynamic tail pack capable of picking up enough early distance to create a string of third-and-short opportunities. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is a plug-and-play cornerback capable of making an impact against the Ravens’ shallow pool of receiving targets. Jordan Whitehead and DJ Reed further enhance a vastly improved passing defense.
Will the Jets win this game? Probably not! Will they get beat like a drum because their starting quarterback is missing? It also seems unlikely. If the money is pouring into Baltimore, well, there will be some value in backing Joe Flacco to start the 2022 NFL season.