Late For Work 10/21: Fitzgerald Misses His Wingman Boldin

56-yarder to Q one of Flacco’s ‘better ones,’ Harbs has fun with media, Week 7 picks.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, October 21st, 2011 at 9:35 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Fitzgerald Misses His Wingman Boldin

With Anquan Boldin by his side, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald broke the 1,000-yard single season receiving barrier four times. Fitz was among the NFL’s top five receivers three of those years.

But Boldin was traded to the Ravens more than a year ago, and Fitzgerald is still lamenting his absence.

So far this season, Fitzgerald has 27 catches, which isn’t enough to crack the NFL’s Top 20. He ranks 12th in the league with 427 receiving yards and has only notched two touchdowns. Most would attribute his decline, in part, to the retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner.

But Fitzgerald says he misses his former wingman.

“Here’s the one small thing that everyone forgets about when Kurt was here,” Fitzgerald said, via Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.  “We had this other guy, what was his name?  Oh, yeah. Anquan Boldin.  I think he made a couple Pro Bowls or something.  He was a decent player around these parts.  I wasn’t here by myself.  I had some talented guys around me.

“Right now, teams are saying, ‘Fitzgerald is over here, we’re not going to let him beat us. We’re going to do whatever it takes to hold him down and not allow him to do that.’  In years past, when I had ‘Q,’ even last year with Steve [Breaston], defenses approached it a little differently.  There were times when I could find some [space].  Now those times are few and far between.”

Statistically speaking, Boldin benefited from having Fitzgerald by his side too. Last season, Boldin’s 837 receiving yards was his lowest output since 2007. Boldin averaged 55.5 yards receiving in Baltimore’s first four games this season.

But the Ravens have shown they understand Boldin needs his own wingman. They brought in speedster Lee Evans, who the Cardinals were rumored to be interested in when he was on the trade block. With an injured foot, Evans hasn’t been able to move into that role yet.

That is where rookie Torrey Smith has stepped up. After his three-touchdown performance against the Rams, teams have had to respect Smith’s presence, which opens things up for Boldin.

Only time will tell if Boldin’s 132-yard performance last week against the Texans is only the beginning of what an emerging legitimate No. 2 receiver can do for him.  Head Coach John Harbaugh sees Boldin’s growing relationship with quarterback Joe Flacco as another positive.

“It’s them understanding each other, what Joe’s looking at, how he wants Anquan to run those routes, how Anquan wants Joe to throw it, where he wants him to put it – and we’re getting there,” said Harbaugh. ”That’s something that’s really come a long way, and it showed up in that game with all those catches that ‘Q’ had.”

56-Yarder To Boldin One Of Flacco’s ‘Better Ones’

Boldin and Flacco’s 56-yard connection against the Texans was one of their best connections to date.

Rolling to his right to evade oncoming pass rushers, Flacco bought an extra second or two to let Boldin run his route. Just as he let the rainbow go, contact was made.  But Flacco was able to get enough under it and Boldin reined the ball in.

While Flacco said he doesn’t know if it was the best pass he’s thrown as a pro, he admitted that it was “one of the better ones.”

“I was happy Anquan caught it, that’s for sure,” Flacco told The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN. 

“Before I released it I was like, ‘OK, Anquan has a half step on this guy and as I released it I kind of got hit so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the ball all the way out there. As I was lying on the ground, I looked up at the jumbo screen and saw that Anquan was catching it. When I let it go I didn’t know if I was going to get it out there that much.”

Flacco admitted getting hit by defenders hurts less when his receiver comes up big for him and completes the pass.

Putting Ravens’ Pass Protection In Perspective

With four convincing wins so far this season, there isn’t much to complain about with the 2011 Ravens. Still, the seven quarterback hits and two sacks Flacco took on Sunday has become the “concern of the week.”

ProFootballTalk’s Gregg Rosenthal puts that concern in perspective, saying pass protections “could be the closest thing Baltimore has to a weakness at this stage of the season.”

It’s not a weakness yet, and because of Flacco’s tremendous value to the team, the Ravens are anxiously engaged in making sure it doesn’t become a legitimate weakness.  The good news is that Flacco has taken the fourth fewest sacks (tied) of any NFL quarterback this season. His 31 quarterback hits rank as the 21st most in the NFL.

“Baltimore has definitely changed its approach on offense because of their newfound team speed,” Rosenthal continued. “They are throwing the ball down the field. Flacco leads the NFL in yards-per-completion. That’s largely because Flacco waits to make the big play. Few quarterbacks are better than Flacco at keeping his eyes downfield and accepting a hit.

“If they get [pass protection] straightened out, no AFC team looks scarier.”

Ex-Girlfriends And Handshakes – Harbaugh Has Fun With Media

Each week Harbaugh participates in a conference call with the opposing city’s media. As MASN’s Dan Kolko pointed out, the Ravens’ head coach had some fun with Jacksonville reporters yesterday.

Here are some excerpts from the call:

“It’s exciting,” Harbaugh said of playing on Monday Night Football. “Everybody’s watching, all the family and friends, people you know and old girlfriends and all that kind of stuff and so our guys get excited to play. I think every player and coach in the league gets excited for Monday night.”

“Do you have some old girlfriends who will be watching?” asked one reporter.

“I was talking about some of our players that were a little more popular in high school,” replied Harbaugh, likely causing a few chuckles.

And you can’t blame the Jacksonville media for asking about the postgame handshake between Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, and Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz after the 49ers beat Detroit.

Harbaugh said he understands why the incident has become a big talking point. He said it was good that it didn’t escalate into a fight.

Asked if he liked his brother’s chances in a fight, Harbaugh said, “Oh gosh yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in enough of those fights to know how that goes.”

“Is Jim more emotional than you?”

“My players would tell you that he’s not.”

“What was your dad like?”

 ”He’s emotional; yeah he’s the same way.  We come by it honestly, I can guarantee you that.”

“It’s in the genes?”

“It’s in the genes. Mom, she’s the worst one.  She’s the craziest one of us. She’s Sicilian.  Sicilian and Polish, that’s a volatile combination.”

 Week 7 Ravens-Jaguars Picks

The Ravens have finished with a 4-1 record after a tough opening schedule that included matchups against the Steelers, Titans, Jets and Texans.

Peter King believes that record is only going to improve as Baltimore enters what he calls “the JV part of their schedule” with the Jaguars (1-5) and Cardinals (1-5) up next.  The Ravens would argue there are no JV squads in the NFL, and know Jacksonville has threatened to win in most of its contests.

“Winning on the road on Monday night isn’t easy,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. “But the Ravens have far too much experience to slip up against an overmatched team.”

It seems all the pundits below agree:

Baltimore Sun: Seven of seven pick the Ravens over the Jaguars
ESPN: Seven of seven pick the Ravens over the Jaguars’s Peter King: Ravens 22, Jaguars 9
USA Today: Eight of eight pick the Ravens over the Jaguars
Yahoo! Sports: Three of three pick the Ravens over the Jaguars Two of two pick the Ravens over the Jaguars Five of five pick the Ravens over the Jaguars

Picks total: Ravens 33, Jaguars 0

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