Flacco's important first step in new offense

This has been the most important offseason practices for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco since his rookie season because so much has changed.

There's a new offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak. There's a new quarterbacks coach in Rick Dennison. And there's the new terminology they bring with this scheme.

But the most important first step for Flacco in this new offense actually involves his feet.

"The West Coast offense – more than any offense I’m that familiar with – ties the footwork reads into the reads more than any other one, and it’s very straightforward," coach John Harbaugh said. "It’s very black and white for the quarterback, and that’s what Joe is learning right now."

In the past, under offensive coordinators Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell, Flacco was asked to look downfield more often than the rest of the quarterbacks in the league. While Kubiak doesn't ignore the vertical passing game, his system is more of a timing one. In West Coast offenses, quarterbacks typically take three- to five-step drops, which makes the footwork of the quarterback key to keeping the rhythm of the passing game.

The intended result is more efficiency. In eight seasons under Kubiak, the Houston Texans ranked third in completion rate at 64.3 percent. Only the New Orleans Saints (67.1 percent) and San Diego Chargers (64.4 percent) were more accurate in their passing games over that same period.

Flacco shrugged off any concern with the alteration to his footwork.

“It’s all the same footwork,” he said. “It’s just making sure that you tie it into your reads and that you can do it spot on in practice [and] in routes versus the air, so that when things break down a little bit, you’re ready to go, you’re still set and you’re ready to throw.”

Flacco has never been among the most accurate NFL quarterbacks. His career completion rate is 60.2 percent, and he hasn't completed more than 60 percent of his throws since 2010.

That could change this year, as long as he avoids any misstep in the new offense.

"It’s a timing offense, and to me Joe is really built for that," Harbaugh said. "It suits him, so he gets better at it every day.”