by Justin Michael

Former NFL wide receiver Qadry Ismail recently joined the Afternoon Drive to break down whether or not the Joe Flacco trade brings the Denver Broncos closer to contention.

Ismail was a second round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 1993 and played for four teams over his 10-year career. In 2001, Ismail won a Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Although Ismail was never teammates with Flacco, Ismail has closely followed the 34-year old quarterback’s career as an analyst in Baltimore.

“I think for Joe, the last four seasons or so have been a flatline,” Ismail said.

According to Ismail, a variety of different issues within the organization contributed to Flacco’s less-than-stellar play in recent years. Some of the problems can be traced back to Flacco, but others were created by the front office. However, it eventually became clear that moving on would be better for both parties, especially after the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson.

“(Flacco) started off the season well–but at the midpoint they were 4-5–and I think with him having a hip injury, they kind of just said ‘okay, enough is enough. Let’s just move forward with the Lamar Jackson era’,” Ismail said.

With Flacco under center, Baltimore jumped out to a 4-2 start in 2018, including a 13-point victory over the Broncos. After Flacco injured his hip though, the Ravens proceeded to lose three consecutive games and that effectively ended his season. But, according to Ismail, there is reason for optimism in the Mile High City.

Ismail explained how Flacco should be physically ready to go after sitting out the majority of the 2018 season, which is good news for the Broncos because Flacco is a “great” quarterback when healthy. If the Broncos can lean on the running game and protect Flacco when he’s in the pocket, Ismail believes the long-time Ravens quarterback still has enough gas left in the tank to be dangerous.

As Ismail sees it, nobody in the league is better than Flacco at surveying the field and stretching an opposing defense with his arm strength. Equally important, Ismail believes Flacco will be able to thrive in Rich Scrangarello’s offensive system.

“I think that as long as they’re pushing him to be his best–if it has those elements of a Gary Kubiak (offense)–if it has misdirection type runs–it will work well in Joe’s favor,” Ismail said. “I think Joe played his best then.”

Ismail was referring to the 2014 season when Kubiak served as the Ravens offensive coordinator and helped guide Flacco to one of the best seasons of his career. Under Kubiak, Flacco tossed a career-high 27 touchdown passes and posted his highest-ever QBR (68.2).

One of the biggest keys to Flacco’s success under Kubiak? Leaning on Justin Forsett, who rushed for a career-best 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. As a result, Flacco had the lowest sack percentage (3.3) of his professional career and the second-best touchdown percentage (4.9) as well.

In 2018, Denver rushed for 1,907 yards as a team, which was the most since 2011 when the Broncos rushed for 2,632 yards with Tim Tebow leading the offense. It’s safe to assume Denver will be looking to build off the momentum in the ground game in 2019 and trying to find creative ways to get the ball in the hands of Phillip Lindsay.

For Flacco, the biggest key is going to be coming in and effectively serving his role within the organization. If he ends up being the starter for all of 2019, the expectation will be for him to get Denver in the playoff conversation. However, if the Broncos invest in a young QB in the 2019 NFL Draft and the team continues to struggle next fall, the veteran will be expected to graciously be a mentor. Ismail does not see it being an issue either way.

“Based upon his experiences, Joe has seen an awful lot and has taken an awful lot,” Ismail said. “Knowing him the way I do, the dude is teflon.”

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