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News » For Flacco, a special foe

For Flacco, a special foe

For Flacco, a special foe
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco hasn't been in the NFL long enough to be jaded, and that is one reason Sunday's home game against the Eagles is a big deal for the product of Audubon High School and the University of Delaware.

"It will really be cool, and there will be a number of people from Audubon coming down," Flacco said outside the Ravens' locker room following Sunday's 30-10 loss to the New York Giants . "I grew up watching the Eagles, and now they are coming to our house."

Even though Flacco, 23, said this is a special game, don't expect him to be overwhelmed by the surroundings. His only worry this week is helping the 6-4 Ravens win a playoff spot. And if that is to happen, a franchise that has gone though an assembly line of ineffective quarterbacks will be depending on the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder.

The Ravens were scorned by draftniks for selecting the South Jersey product with the 18th pick of the first round this year. Baltimore could be getting the last laugh.

Flacco won the job in the preseason mainly because he was the last quarterback standing. Kyle Boller, who started eight games last season, suffered a season-ending torn labrum in the second preseason game, on Aug. 16.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who started two games last season, had a long illness due to infected tonsils.

So, Flacco was given the keys to the Ravens' offense, and he has more than held his own.

Flacco has started all 10 games and has completed 171 of 276 passes (62 percent) for 1,813 yards and eight touchdowns, with nine interceptions. He has gained 142 yards and scored two touchdowns on 35 carries. On Sunday, he rushed for a career best of 57 yards on six attempts. His passer rating is 77.2.

While those aren't Pro Bowl statistics, the fact that he is a rookie performing capably in a league that usually devours first-year quarterbacks has been impressive.

"He's developing into a very good quarterback," said Derrick Mason, a veteran wide receiver for the Ravens. "He will play a lot of years in this league because he is smart, has a strong arm, commands the huddle, knows how to run a two-minute drive, and knows how to get outside the pocket and run."

Winning over a veteran team is one of the biggest challenges facing a rookie quarterback, and Flacco scored points with his teammates shortly after he was drafted.

During the spring, Flacco spent an inordinate amount of time at the Ravens' practice facility, learning the offense.

"I wouldn't say he has surprised me, just because I saw him work in the off-season," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said. "He surprised me more in off-season when he came in and worked so hard. But as far as the season, I saw all those things in the off-season."

Heap said Flacco was viewed by his teammates as a battle-tested veteran.

"We have had so many different types of games, and he has seen so much and put so much work in studying, that you can't consider him a rookie," Heap said.

While the play of Flacco and fellow first-round rookie quarterback Matt Ryan of Atlanta (and Penn Charter) has caught some NFL observers off-guard, Flacco always believed that he could produce if he earned playing time.

"I didn't know what to expect, so I don't know if anything has surprised me," Flacco said. "It's been a lot of fun, and it's what I want to do with my life."

As the season has gone on, Flacco has earned more responsibility. For instance, in a 37-27 win at Cleveland on Nov. 2, Flacco completed 17 of 29 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, for a 109.6 passer rating.

"Watching him play, he has made a lot of progress," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the former longtime Eagles assistant.

Flacco's best attribute is his arm, which is powerful even by NFL standards. When he was a senior at Audubon High, in Camden County, some scouts in pro baseball said he had a future in that sport because he threw a fastball 90 m.p.h.

He also has enough scrambling ability to get himself out of difficult situations. Maybe his most impressive trait, however, is his belief in himself.

"From day one, I have had the confidence in myself that I could go out and do the job," Flacco said.

"I think he has those tangibles to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league," said Mason, the wide receiver. "As he continues to play, and as he continues to grow as a player, the sky is the limit."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 19, 2008

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