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Two guys playing for new contracts now face each other…DRC vs. Flacco

Among the many interesting subplots of the Eagles’ hosting the Ravens this coming Sunday are the parallel universes of Eagles CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ravens QB Joe Flacco…

Both are playing for new long-term contracts. Both are coincidentally playing lights out since preseason began. And now both will be facing off against each other, with the winner of the match possibly costing his opposing doppelganger some serious money.

DRC is motivated to play hard this season by a number of factors…not the least of
which he feels he has been set free to play the outside corner. Last year he felt stuck in the slot.

Rodgers-Cromartie, at 26, is at his physical peak and playing for a long-term contract extension that would put a heck of a lot more money in his pocket than the relatively paltry sum of $2 million he’s due to make this season, the final one in his contract.

Now that he’s a starter on the outside after spending the 2011 season in limbo while the Eagles tried to juggle three Pro Bowl players for two spots, DRC has established full ownership of the position. You can’t even see Asante Samuel’s shadow anymore.

DRC picked off two passes in the opener against Cleveland and almost had a 3rd. He’s peen putting up results like that all preseason long.

“That’s just a great day and start from a personal standpoint,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But I give credit to the D-line because I knew the ball was going to have to come out fast and I was just snapping my head around to just get a feel for where the ball is.

“You know when there is an opportunity for an interception, you have to make it.” DRC has done just that ever since the offseason minicamps began.

Now it’s up to the Eagles’ front office to lock him in. For a team that leads the league with more than $20 million in cap space, it shouldn’t be a problem. The way DRC has been playing since May, he looks to be one of the top cover corners in the league, if not the best. Nobody runs by him and few can overpower or outjump him because of his height (6-2) and leverage.

Back with more after a short break….

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Flacco’s going to be trying to isolate Torrey Smith on DRC… and DRC should shut that shit down…

Smith is a cool customer in his second year out of Maryland… but no match for DRC.

Flacco will not mess with Nnamdi.. everything deep is going against DRC… Flacco will try to put DRC out on that island… but it will not fly. I’m way more concerned about Flacco’s intermediate targets— tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta in the flats, and Ray Rice coming out of the backfield against the linebackers’ coverage.

Reality check for Flacco… let’s hope for that…

It takes a lot to rattle Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, but don’t ask him about getting tickets for Sunday’s Eagles game. The Audubon High School graduate grew up a few miles from Philadelphia’s professional stadiums, and for the first time in his five-year NFL career, he will play a regular-season game at Lincoln Financial Field when the Ravens visit for a 1 p.m. matchup.

“This is going to be pretty cool,” Flacco said after engineering a 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Ravens’ opener Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium. “I didn’t necessarily grow up a fan of the Eagles, but I grew up watching them every Sunday.”

The 27-year-old Flacco appears ready to reach a new level in the quarterback stratosphere. He is a player who has taken his share of hits on and off the field but has remained oblivious to the criticism.

“It’s well-documented how calm and unflappable he is,” Ravens center Matt Birk said. “Nobody is impressed less by Joe’s success than Joe.” Flacco opened with a sterling performance Monday night, completing 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in the win over the Bengals.

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Flacco has started every game for the Ravens – 65 in the regular season and nine more in the playoffs – since they took him at No. 18 overall in the 2008 NFL draft out of the University of Delaware. With Monday’s win, Flacco’s regular-season record is 45-20. Flacco is the first starting quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, and his 44 regular-season wins were the most by a quarterback in his first four seasons. He has been described as a game manager who didn’t always manage the game correctly. Of course, that criticism came from outside the Ravens organization. His teammates are squarely behind Flacco.

“I think he’s going to prove to everybody why he is a top quarterback in the league,” two-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said.

Added coach John Harbaugh, the former Eagles assistant: “Joe Flacco is going to be a great player. Joe Flacco is a great player. Joe Flacco has been a great player.”

Yet Flacco, who threw for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last season, said he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. And he said he isn’t coming into his own because, in his mind, he already has.

“I think I play good every year. I think I play good every game,” he said. He didn’t say that in a boastful manner but in his usual matter-of-fact style. It’s all part of keeping things simple.

Last season, Flacco outplayed Tom Brady in the AFC championship game that the Ravens lost at New England, 23-20. Look it up. Flacco completed 22 of 36 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Brady was 22 of 36 for 239 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions.

Had Lee Evans not dropped that pass in the end zone on the final drive or had Billy Cundiff not missed that last-second 32-yard field goal that would have tied the score, who knows how Flacco would be viewed? All he has done in his career is win, and now the Ravens are using an up-tempo offense that gives him more responsibility while taking advantage of one of the best arms in the NFL.

“It’s been so much fun,” Flacco said. He hopes it continues this weekend.

“All my buddies are Eagles fans,” he said. “It definitely has that rivalry feel to it when you are going back and playing the hometown team; that is fun.”

Flacco is in the final year of his contract, but he maintains he is not concerned that an extension hasn’t come his way. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome dismissed any notion that this is a distraction.

“He is more focused than I have seen him, and it’s not an issue,” said Newsome, a Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end.

So why does he remain unsigned? “We don’t discuss contracts,” Newsome said politely. However, after Monday night’s game, Harbaugh said, “Pay him whatever he asks for. Pay the man.”

Newsome does discuss what he believes is the ceiling for Flacco, one that the quarterback hasn’t reached. “This is his fifth year, and if you would have told us [on draft day] that he would not miss a start and play in the playoffs every year, we would have been happy with Joe Flacco,” said Newsome, considered by many one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. “But what we have seen, there is a lot more to come.”

This offseason and training camp, under a new quarterback coach in Jim Caldwell – you may know the name from one of his former pupils, Peyton something – Flacco looked unstoppable, so much so that everyone was waiting for the bubble to burst.

It didn’t. The first time he walked out of the huddle in a real game in 2012, he launched a 52-yard beauty to Torrey Smith, setting up the Ravens’ first touchdown. He was all but flawless after that, too.

The most fun season on offense in Ravens history might be on tap. How much fun it could be for Flacco remains to be seen, though. The contract situation won’t go away, whether he’s brilliant, awful, winning, losing, or some combination of them all in Philadelphia on Sunday.

“I don’t concern myself with that stuff,’’ he said. “I feel like I always go out there, we go out on the field, and we play pretty damn good every week. The stats might not always say 299 yards or 300 yards or 450 yards or whatever, but the bottom line is, I go out there, I play hard, I play tough, and we win a lot of football games around here.

“So all that stuff will take care of itself.’’

Baltimore debuted its new no-huddle offense, a scheme Flacco seemed to relish. He hit Torrey Smith with a 52-yard pass on the game’s first offensive play and would lead the Ravens to points on all but two of their possessions, excluding a kneeldown to end the first half.

“We practiced against this offense all offseason, so to see it now, when everything is real, I think you have to take your hats off to how we worked as a team,” said Ray Lewis, who had an AFC-best 14 tackles and a sack to kick off his 17th season.

“Trust me, I am pro-Joe because he has proved himself year in and year out.”

Lewis led a Baltimore defense that had a solid debut under new coordinator Dean Pees despite the absence of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, out until at least November with a torn Achilles. The Ravens had four sacks and forced two turnovers, one a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ed Reed.

However, their once-vaunted run defense – they allowed the league’s second-fewest rushing yards last season – let Cincinnati gain 129 yards on 28 carries.

The Eagles are 9-1 when McCoy rushes for 100 yards.

Philadelphia’s defense also played well last Sunday but was facing a Cleveland team relying on rookies at quarterback and running back. Facing Flacco and Ray Rice, who had 68 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in Week 1, will surely be a stiffer test.

“This Philadelphia team, they came off a big win, a tight game,” Flacco said. “It was a pretty crazy game, and they’re going to be at their home opener, and they’re going to be ready to go. It should be a lot of fun.”

I’m hoping the Eagles will take all the fun out of Joe Flacco’s equation… I think it’s reality check time for the Eagles…and Joe Flacco…