Ready or not, it's Ravens rookie Flacco vs Bengals Print
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Thursday, 04 September 2008 15:54
NFL Headline News

 BALTIMORE (AP) -Joe Flacco has been studying the Baltimore Ravens playbook for months. He made it through four preseason games without throwing an interception, and has watched plenty of film on the Cincinnati Bengals.
All of that has been very helpful to the rookie quarterback. And it probably won't mean a thing Sunday in his first NFL game.
Take it from someone who knows: There's nothing a quarterback can do that will fully prepare himself for the experience of playing against 11 men whose sole objective is making his life miserable.
or a young guy.''
Drafted with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Flacco was immediately crowned the Ravens' quarterback of the future. But a season-ending shoulder injury to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith's prolonged bout with infected tonsils elevated Flacco into a starting role far sooner than anticipated.
Instead of learning while watching, the former Delaware star will be taught by experience.
``I'm sure a big part of their plan is to try to get to the quarterback and make him feel as uncomfortable as possible,'' Flacco said.
Precisely. Cincinnati's weakness in recent seasons, including last year's 7-9 disaster, has been a tame defense. But new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has installed a more aggressive scheme, and the Bengals intend to do more than merely have cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall engage Baltimore's receivers at the line.
``If the quarterback's young, obviously you want to make things a little bit harder on him. He's not going to have the vision like a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning would have,'' Hall said. ``So we're going to try to use his inexperience to our advantage. At the same time, you still have to go out and execute. You can't just leave a guy wide open. Any quarterback can throw that ball.''
Provided he has the time. The success of the Baltimore offense could depend heavily on second-year pro Jared Gaither, who takes over for the retired left tackle Jonathan Ogden at the most important position on the line. Gaither has six games of NFL experience and played in only one preseason game because of a high-ankle sprain.
The Ravens also have a problem at running back. Willis McGahee missed the entire preseason with a knee injury, and even if he plays Sunday, the layoff could affect his endurance and effectiveness.
Baltimore's most significant newcomer is head coach John Harbaugh, who's been put in charge of turning around a team that went 5-11 last season under Brian Billick. Harbaugh never has been a head coach before, and, like Flacco, will find out whether football in August is a sufficient precursor to the real thing.
``My guess is it won't be a lot different than the preseason or being on the sideline as an assistant,'' Harbaugh said. ``I may tell you after the game that it wasn't even close.''
Cincinnati has also undergone a transformation from a year ago. Chris Perry takes over for Rudi Johnson at running back, the defense has been dramatically altered under Zimmer, and then there's that change at wide receiver - where Chad Johnson has become Chad Ocho Cinco.
He may have a new name, but the Ravens expect to see - and hear - the same guy.
``Chad is definitely one of the best receivers in the league, hands down,'' Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister said. ``If you're worried about him talking and not worried about what their offense is trying to do with him to put him in a position to make plays, that's when you lose him.''
Palmer, meanwhile, is back after missing the preseason finale with a cracked bone in his nose. Although the Ravens have a new coaching staff and could be without injured safety Ed Reed (neck), Palmer knows defensive coordinator Rex Ryan intends to do to him what the Bengals will do to Flacco.
``They have virtually the same guys, other than maybe a rookie starting here or there because of injuries,'' Palmer said. ``But same players, same physical front, same speed, same confusion, the same things we've seen for years now.''
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AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
 

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