With the 18th-overall pick in the first round of the 2008 draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected quarterback Joe Flacco out of Delaware.
With his 6'6", 230-pound frame, Flacco was deemed the next Ben Roethlisberger. His impressive arm strength earned him the nickname "Bazooka" Joe.
The Ravens announced that he was to be the quarterback of the future after Steve McNair's retirement. The plan was to give him a bit of preseason action before benching him and handing him a clipboard so he could learn.
Instead, first and second-string quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Troy Smith were stricken with an injury and an illness heading into the regular season. New Coach John Harbaugh made the decision that he would start Flacco.
Now, we sit at the halfway mark of the season, and the Baltimore Ravens are perched in second place in the AFC North with a surprising 5-3 record.
Flacco's stats as of now are as follows:
QB rating: 75.6
Arm Strength: A
"Bazooka" Joe is definitely an accurate nickname for this rookie. He has thrown some impressive bombs in multiple games that have helped stretch the defense and open up the running game.
As you can see from his 61.8 completion percentage, he has average accuracy. However, he's still shaking off the rookie effect and appears to be steadily improving as he gets more and more starts.
In Week One against the Bengals, Flacco had an impressive 38-yard run that resulted in a rushing touchdown, the first of his career. On average, he'll scramble out of the pocket for positive yardage, three or four times a game. He has also shown some ability to move around in the pocket to avoid hits or sacks and extend the play.
Absolutely the one shining characteristic of this first-year starter. Even when facing tough defensive fronts like Pittsburgh and Tennessee, Flacco has shown great poise and confidence in the pocket. He will stand and throw even when he knows a big hit is coming. I believe his poise will be the building block from which he may ascend into an elite quarterback.
Decision Making: D+
By far the one glaring weakness of this quarterback has been his decision making. Let me be clear that this grade will go up as the season progresses. Right now, Flacco still struggles to throw the ball away when he needs to.
His seven interceptions have been mostly his fault and sometimes it almost seems like he was intentionally throwing to the defender (though he obviously wasn't). If he can work on throwing the ball away instead of trying to force throws, his interception count will go down.
Ability to Read the Defense: C-
Flacco is still young, so he obviously can't be expected to be some great playcaller like Peyton Manning, who can audible his way out of just about any defensive formation. Flacco's hurry-up offense leaves something to be desired, but this is a quality quarterbacks gain as they gain experience.
Within a year or two, Flacco will better learn to recognize what the defense is doing and take advantage of it.
Overall Grade: B-
Flacco shows a lot of potential and has gone three games now without throwing an interception. In multiple games this season, he has lead his offense down the field and kept his team in games when it mattered most.
If his team manages to get into the playoffs this year, which they very well might, it will give him even more much-needed experience and help with his progression into a mature quarterback.
Until then, thanks for the read and check back in with me for Flacco's postseason grade at the end of the season!