Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco better start loosening his arm in case the team hires Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator.
The Ravens on Monday interviewed the former Detroit Lions coordinator, who called plays -- including some occasional runs -- for the NFL’s pass-happiest offense in recent years.
No quarterback has thrown more passes since 2011 than Matthew Stafford, who has chucked up 2,024 of them in the past three seasons. Stafford twice led the league in pass attempts, including an all-time single-season high of 727 last season.
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I doubt the Ravens, despite asking Flacco to throw a career-high 614 attempts in 2013, will want to be that unbalanced. But philosophically, his approach aligns with what the Ravens have done the past two years.
Linehan, the former St. Louis Rams head coach, has roots in single-back spread offenses, and that is reflected in his use of three-receiver sets in recent seasons.
In 2012, the Lions went three-wide on nearly half of their plays and put Stafford in the shotgun or pistol on 71 percent of his snaps, the highest percentage in the league, according to Football Outsiders. This year, the Lions were in three-receiver sets on 67.3 percent of snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
By my count, the Ravens used their three-receiver sets -- also known as 11 personnel -- on about 73 percent of their plays from scrimmage in 2013, and Flacco was directly behind center for just a fraction of those snaps. The Ravens were pretty much exclusively a single-back offense after Week 7, parking bulldozing fullback Vonta Leach on the sideline.
So while some passing concepts could change under Linehan, and the Ravens might not throw deep as often, it wouldn’t be a radical departure from what they’re doing offensively.
And while Linehan wouldn’t be the most popular hire, he did show the flexibility to put his players in different positions to succeed. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson lined up in the slot often this season, and Linehan also put running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell on the field together at times to try to create mismatches (I thought the Ravens might do that with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce this season, but they only did once, perhaps because Rice lost explosiveness).
It’s unclear how serious the Ravens are about Linehan, or if he was just the latest contestant on “Who Wants to be a Ravens Offensive Coordinator?” But it is clear that if he does get the job, Flacco’s arm is probably going to get a workout.