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Marc Trestman needs to be more aggressive

Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman watches as quarterback Joe Flacco prepares to run a play at the team's first day of training camp.
Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman watches as quarterback Joe Flacco prepares to run a play at the team's first day of training camp. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Marc Trestman's conservative approach was expected. A year ago as the coach of the Chicago Bears, he had talented receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Brandon Marshall.

As the Ravens offensive coordinator this season, Trestman has such talented receivers as Steve Smith Sr., Steve Smith Sr. and, well, Steve Smith Sr. But as the Ravens prepare for the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 on Sunday, Trestman needs to open up the offense.

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This is not an advocation for Joe Flacco to throw 40 or 45 passes a game. The Ravens have been there, done that, and it doesn't work.

When Flacco gets pass-happy, he can win games and he can also lose them because of his inconsistency. The No. 1 priority at this point of the season for the offense is to get the running game and play-action game going.

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But at the same time, Trestman has to allow Flacco to take a few shots down the field, maybe three or four times a game, particularly when the Ravens cross their own 40-yard line. In the Ravens' 19-13 loss to the Broncos, Flacco threw only one pass over 20 yards, a 22-yard reception by receiver Marlon Brown.

Brown wasn't open, but pushed off at the last second to gain enough separation to make the catch. And with this group of receivers, that's the way it has to be because the Ravens don't have a speed guy until rookie receiver Breshad Perriman returns from injury.

They are a collection of possession-type receivers, but guys like Brown and rookie Darren Waller still have enough size and athleticism to post up and make plays downfield. It's nearly impossible to win games in the modern era of football without explosive, vertical plays.

Because defenses attack offenses more with blitzes and other types of pressure, there are few 11-to-14 play drives in a game. Plus, downfield plays open up the short to mid-range passing game.

"It's not about running by guys, in terms of getting intermediate passes and downfield passes," Flacco said. "It's about exploiting weaknesses in defenses and just a combination of things and hitting them at the right time. It's not about coming over there and running a 4.2 [40-yard dash] running by guys; you seldom see that.

"I don't think we're going to have that guy right now that's going to run by guys five times a game, but we definitely have guys that can run crossing routes and be hit 30 yards downfield and can run double-moves downfield, things like that. That's what we're going to have to do."

The Ravens should get several opportunities Sunday against Oakland, which gave up 269 passing yards last week in a 33-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Because of injuries, the Raiders are expected to start two new safeties this week in Taylor Mays and Larry Asante.

But to run deeper routes, the Ravens have to be able to pass protect and adjust, two things they didn't do last week. Flacco was sacked twice and hit nine other times. The Ravens couldn't block linebackers Brandon Marshall and DeMarcus Ware.

Sometimes, those things happen when you play against great players. What was inexcusable was that the Ravens didn't have many solutions. So Sunday, when Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack and outside linebacker Aldon Smith are bringing the heat, here are a few suggestions:

Instead of just having Flacco drop straight back, how about some roll or sprint-out passes? How about a couple of bootlegs or waggles? Maybe a screen or two. How about a draw? What about some slants?

On Monday following the loss to the Broncos, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the conservative game plan was partially because of the pressure Denver was getting on Flacco, and also because of how well the Ravens defense was playing. It sounds good, but let's take a stroll through history.

Flacco has been at his best against good teams in the postseason. Why? Because former offensive coordinators Jim Caldwell and Gary Kubiak knew they had to manufacture more points against good teams, so they let Flacco throw more.

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Flacco can't carry a team like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. But since he is paid as much and because the Ravens have young receivers, they might as well let him throw more until both the receivers and running game develop.

It's way too early to have harsh criticism for Harbaugh or Trestman. Everyone knew this offense was going to be a work in progress, and Trestman is still learning his personnel. Progress this week is if the Ravens can adjust and learn from last week's mistakes.

And that includes throwing downfield more often.

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