Passer Appraisals Week 9: Marcus Mariota and Joe Flacco
Each week at TwoQBs.com I will post an article on two notable quarterback performances over the prior week. This week I will be looking at Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans and Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens.
Against the Ravens this past week, Marcus Mariota completed 19-of-28 pass attempts for 218 yards with a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He also rushed three times for a combined six yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 32 yards in the win versus Baltimore. On the year, Mariota has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,519 yards, including only six touchdowns with five interceptions. Mariota has also rushed 26 times this year for 130 yards and another three touchdowns.
Near the end of the first quarter on a 2nd-and-3, after Mariota had run for seven yards, he took a snap from shotgun and took two steps back, launching a perfect 23-yard back shoulder pass to Corey Davis. On the next play, Mariota took a snap from center and took a seven-yard drop-back, throwing untouched from the 23-yard line to Rishard Matthews, who was running right to left across the end zone, making it look like an easy game of pitch and catch. It’s not this easy, of course. The offensive line gave him a clean pocket, the wide receiver was open by at least four yards and the pass timing was perfect.
In the fourth quarter up 16 to 6, the Titans had just taken over possession after a bad referee ball placement on fourth and inches. On 3rd-and-4, Mariota took a snap from shotgun and dropped back two steps. Staying light on his feet he stared down Rishard Matthews, and without playing his feet, he launched the ball 33 yards downfield. Because of the stare-down, safety Eric Weddle came over the top and intercepted the ball which had beaten Matthews by at least three yards.
With four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Titans’ lead was threatened. After a nice catch and run by DeMarco Murray and smaller plays from Derrick Henry and Murray, the Titans had the ball at the Baltimore 11-yard line on a 3rd-and-3. The plan appeared to be for Corey Davis to take coverage away from Jonnu Smith and for Smith to get open near the end zone, but Smith was held up in traffic. Mariota took a snap from shotgun and rolled to the right but stopped when the play was disrupted, and a defender got behind the offense. Setting his feet, he started to roll left and scanned the field for an open receiver. He noted Eric Decker coming free and heading toward the left side of the end zone. All coverage had rolled right, so there was no one now between Mariota and Decker. Throwing off balance on this slow-moving play, he lofted the ball to Decker, nearly sealing a Titans win with four minutes to go.
At 24 years old, Mariota is an obvious buy in all dynasty leagues, but especially in two-quarterback and superflex leagues where the focus is on having a starter who will not be benched or replaced. As the team brings along Corey Davis back from his hamstring problems and continues to focus on a balanced offense, Mariota will not be known as a top-three scoring quarterback every week, but he will not lose your week for you either. In redraft, you can count on him for a consistent 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio and typically just over 200 yards per game. In any 2QB league I would consider him a safe second quarterback from week to week and in 2QB dynasty I’d easily pay a top-four pick for him.
In the Week 9 loss versus the Titans, hard-throwing Joe Flacco completed 34-of-52 pass attempts for 261 yards, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions, also rushing once for seven yards. For the year, Flacco has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 1,551 yards, eight touchdowns, and ten interceptions, averaging only 172 yards per game.
A notable play early in the game was on a 1st-and-10 from the 50-yard line. Flacco took the snap under center and faked a handoff to Alex Collins. He dropped back nine steps and threw the ball somewhat effortlessly to the touchdown line where Breshad Perriman was arriving, the ball glancing off Perriman’s hand. The pass should have been caught, as the timing and the placement of the ball were exactly where they needed to be, but Perriman simply failed to haul it in. For reference, Perriman has only caught 26 percent of his targets this year (7 receptions, 27 targets). Near the end of the first quarter, Flacco’s first interception occurred when the ball bounced into the air off Perriman’s hands on a 50-yard throw.
Early in the third quarter, Flacco took a snap from center on a 1st-and-10 from his own 35-yard line. After a five-step drop he stared down Ben Watson on the right side of the field who was unable to separate from his defender. There was only a three-man rush from Tennessee on the play. Even though Watson was tightly covered, Flacco double-clutched and threw short to that area and the pass was easily picked off by safety Kevin Byard. There was almost no pressure on Flacco and no reason to push it to Watson rather than check down to running back Alex Collins or wait for a receiver to come open.
With 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, momentum started to go the way of the Ravens. On a 2nd-and-10 from the Titans’ 42-yard line, Flacco took a snap from shotgun and threw a laser to tight end Ben Watson, who had found a soft spot between defenders and reached up to snatch it out of the air. It was a perfect pass out of reach of everyone who wasn’t a 6’3″ tight end and found him at the moment where he had no interference from defenders. This play was followed by two rushes by Collins and a seven-yard scramble from Flacco. Then on the two-yard line on a third-and-less-than-a-yard, Flacco took a snap from center and rolled out to the right. Buck Allen simply shouldered aside and then outran safety Kevin Byard and ran toward the right front corner of the end zone. After a long look from Flacco, he threw off balance and placed the ball perfectly in front of Allen as he came completely free of Byard and extended the ball into the end zone.
At 32 years old, I think we’ve seen what we will get from Flacco for his career — an uneven performance week to week with an overall mediocre offense around him. He might go for 400 yards with four touchdowns like he did against Miami in 2016 or he could just as easily throw for 28 yards and two interceptions like he did against Jacksonville this year. Neither result really surprises anyone from a fantasy perspective anymore. On the whole, I’d pay a late-first or early-second round pick for him in 2QB dynasty, and I’d consider him a back-end QB2 in redraft. When it comes to using Flacco in the playoffs, I just don’t feel that he’s the guy you’d trust even in a good matchup. I’d rather have a consistent performer week to week.
Non-Quarterback Thoughts of the Week:
Alex Collins reminds me of a younger Steven Jackson. Runs angry and hits hard.
Jacksonville is great. But telling me I should sit Rivers against Jacksonville in a 2QB league is kinda silly. I’m probably not going to have four or five top-20 starting QBs to choose from.
I can’t decide if I want to spend the money on a set of Bluetooth Bose Quiet Comfort noise cancelling headphones for my wife for Christmas. She’s much too thrifty to buy them for herself, though. Hmm.
Offered someone Cam Newton and Drew Stanton for Alex Smith (on a bye this week) and Aaron Rodgers (IR) in a one-quarterback league. My team is 6-3 and I’m pretty sure I’ll make the playoffs even if I am short a quarterback for one week.
Talisman – the digital version through Steam – is a great fantasy board game and has stood the test of time for the geeks in our house (me included).
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