He has been intercepted four times in six quarters of work. He's been picked off in every game. Flacco threw an interception on his first drive of the preseason. He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He threw an interception in the red zone. In total, he's averaging one interception every 10.5 pass attempts.
Are the Ravens worried about this unexpected development?
"Joe is not one to throw interceptions, as we all know," coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday night's 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers. "We’ll be concerned about them -- Joe more than anybody. We’ll take a hard look at it with Jim [Caldwell, offensive coordinator] and [senior offensive assistant] Craig Ver Steeg. We’ll assess where we’re at with him."
Flacco's handful of interceptions are more surprising than troubling. This is the same quarterback who wasn't picked off in his final six games last season, a streak of 195 passes. In four postseason games, he put up Joe Montana-like numbers of 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The increased number of turnovers in the preseason isn't a sign that Flacco has changed. It's evidence that the receivers around him have.
Flacco knew he could throw passes in tight spots to wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta. It's a trust that was built up in throwing to those players for three years. Flacco isn't going to have that same familiarity with his receivers after three preseason games. Three of his targets on Thursday night -- wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight ends Dallas Clark and Visanthe Shiancoe -- weren't in a Ravens uniform when training camp began.
And, when analyzing each interception, you can blame miscommunication or a receiver not fighting for the ball as much as Flacco. The interception that falls on Flacco's shoulders was the one where he stared down Shiancoe in the red zone on Thursday and was picked off by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
"A lot of that is [that] he’s trying to get a feel for guys," Harbaugh said. "I can’t say if everybody was exactly where they were supposed to be on the routes or not -- that’s the stuff we’ll look at. Joe will be the first to take responsibility -- he has always been that way. I don’t expect that to be an issue this year, but we’ve got to make sure it’s not."
Here are some other notes from the Ravens' third preseason game:
Halfway into his postgame news conference, Harbaugh said, "I'm waiting for the Jimmy Smith question. You got one for me?" Harbaugh was referencing the cornerback who was criticized last week for struggling against Atlanta. After a cameraman played along and asked the coach about Smith, Harbaugh said, "Jimmy Smith played very well. He was physical at the line. They’ve got excellent receivers over there, and I think he did a nice job. Thanks for asking.”
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor went to the locker room in the fourth quarter with a head injury. "He went through the concussion protocol there, so we’ll just have to play that one by ear," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh declined to say whether he saw any separation in the battle at wide receiver. Undrafted rookie Marlon Brown has made a strong case to make the team, leading the Ravens this preseason with six catches. "We have a bunch of guys that are probably going to play very well in this league over the next few years," Harbaugh said about his receivers. "They aren’t going to all be here, but they’re going to play somewhere, and I’m really kind of happy where we’re at with those guys. You probably saw today the things we’ve been seeing in practice for the last few weeks, and I’m glad you got a chance to see those things.”