Joe Flacco, in depth

OWINGS MILLS -- Before the Baltimore Ravens drafted rookie quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round, he had some extra tutoring assistance to prepare himself for the rigors of the NFL. Former New York Giants quarterback Scott Brunner trains high school and collegiate quarterbacks at the TEST Sports Performance Center in Martinsville, N.J., and Flacco is one of his star pupils

Both Brunner and Flacco, who was installed as the starter by default due to Kyle Boller's shoulder injury and Troy Smith's tonsil infection, are former University of Delaware standouts.

Brunner is a former backup to Giants quarterback Phil Simms and Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. He passed for 6,457 yards, 29 touchdowns and 54 interceptions in five NFL seasons.

In the wake of Flacco making his debut in a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals where he completed 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards and no interceptions with a 38-yard touchdown run, Ravens Insider discussed Flacco's development with Brunner.

Ravens Insider: What's your take on Flacco's first start?

Brunner: I think the plan was for him to watch for at least a few games, but that didn't happen because of the circumstances with the other quarterbacks so there was no other option. And he took advantage of a great opportunity and really accounted for himself very well.

"He didn't light the world on fire as a young quarterback, but he didn't turn the ball over and he managed the game. When I talked to him after the game, he was really excited and telling stories about the different plays. He really embraced the whole situation and environment. I thought he did a pretty good job overall."

Ravens Insider: What are Flacco's biggest strengths at this point of his development?

Brunner: "I think his temperament is a great quality that suits him very well going into a pressure-packed situation. He was very calm and relaxed even in the face of pressure. His physical ability is well-documented.

"He has a great release with a lot of velocity on the ball. His vision is underrated a little bit. He's able to look at a defense and make great decisions and find the proper receiver. When it wasn't there, he didn't force anything, which had to be encouraging."

Ravens Insider: What are some of the biggest challenges for Flacco as a rookie?

Brunner: "To a degree, adjusting to the speed of the game is overrated. You pick up the speed pretty quickly if you have the physical ability. You get right into the pace of the game. The hardest thing for a young guy is not the speed of the game, it's the speed of the decisions you have to make.

"Cam Cameron did a great job of putting together a beautiful game plan to make sure Joe was comfortable in his reads and getting rid of the ball. The fact that they were able to run the ball was huge."

Ravens Insider: How does Flacco's low-key personality affect his adjustment?

Brunner: "All they care about in the NFL is if you make plays on Sunday. There's guys who talk and guys who are quiet. At the end of the day, they respect the guys who make plays and help them win. Some people think you have to have a rah-rah guy at quarterback. Clearly, that's not necessarily the case. Look at Eli Manning. He has a very similar demeanor to Joe.

"There's all kinds of leadership styles. It's more important to be yourself. I think his mom and dad, Karen and Steve, are well-grounded and they keep him well grounded. He doesn't get too big for his britches. They did a great job of raising him."

Ravens Insider: How would you rate his arm strength?

Brunner: "During the offseason, I watched a lot of guys and his delivery is as close to a Dan Marino delivery as I've seen in 20 years. He probably throws a tighter ball than Marino, who was a little bit loose. The quickness of his delivery and his arm strength, there's a lot of rotation there. He gets the ball into a throwing motion kind of like a golf swing.

"He clears his lower body out and there's a lag with his upper body. It doesn't look like a lot, but the ball comes out with a lot of velocity. It's something he developed as a baseball player when he was younger. As a 6-foot-6 quarterback, he combines that with arm strength and flexibility with that motion."

Ravens Insider: How would you rate him as an athlete?

Brunner: "He's going to be beef up a little bit in the weight room to protect himself from this brutal game, but he's already got great footwork, good balance and a good base underneath him even when he appears to be off-balance. He creates a lot of velocity on the ball with a very short stride.

"I think he was stereotyped as a big quarterback and people thought he couldn't move that much, but he's much more athletic than people give him credit for. Not only with the combine numbers and having the fastest three-cone drill, but how he moves in the pocket. You saw how he can get down the field. He did it without thinking, which is what you strive for."

Ravens Insider: Where does his power come from in his throwing motion?

Brunner: "Joe's got that great release and that strong arm. His delivery is so efficient. He gets a lot of torque from his hips. We went to the Senior Bowl and I heard many scouts say, 'There's really only one NFL arm on the field,' and that's Joe.

"Joe has a simple motion with not a lot of moving parts. He opens his hips, turns and releases to the target. He keeps that tight motion simple and efficient, and that generates a lot of power and accuracy."

Ravens Insider: What kind of growing pains do you expect him to experience?

Brunner: "It will be interesting to see how he responds to adversity and how he grows from this. Everything will not be smooth and peachy. There will be a few interceptions and all those 'Let's Go Flacco's will turn to boos, and he'll deal with it. All those college experiences helped him along the way and I think he's gone down to Baltimore with a lot of confidence."

By Aaron Wilson

OWINGS MILLS -- With cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Derrick Martin activated from the suspended list, the Baltimore Ravens cut offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and kicker Steve Hauschka to comply with NFL roster limits.

Acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders, Washington was suspended for the opener for violating the league's personal-conduct policy with an offseason arrest for domestic violence.

Martin was suspended for one game for violating the league's substance-abuse policy stemming from being charged with possession of marijuana following a random TSA search at the Cleveland airport. He pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and paid a $100 fine as the drug charge was dropped.

A former first-round draft pick from Nebraska, Washington is penciled in as the Ravens' nickel back.

Kracalik was praised by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron during training camp for his improved footwork.

An undrafted rookie from North Carolina State, Hauschka was recently signed after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens signed tight end Edgar Jones to the practice squad. A converted outside linebacker, Jones was cut last week when the team signed veteran offensive tackle Willie Anderson.

The Ravens cut tight end Nate Lawrie, a Yale product, from the practice squad.

NOTE: Cornerback Chris McAlister is dealing with swelling in his right knee, an injury that bothered him periodically during the preseason. Without having surgery, it's likely that McAlister will have problems with the knee throughout the season.

The Ravens are monitoring the injury closely, running tests on it since a 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. McAlister intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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