Should we be panicking about the play of Joe Flacco?

An earthquake rattled Baltimore on Tuesday and a hurricane is expected to rock us this weekend. So what's got everyone panicking around here? The play of a quarterback who has won 32 games in three seasons.

We all want to see development from Joe Flacco after his inability to match Ben Roethlisberger throw for throw in last year’s playoffs was one of the main reasons the Ravens couldn’t outlast the Steelers. But as I wrote after Thursday’s 34-31 win over the Redskins, Flacco is established enough that we shouldn’t be freaking out about an uneven preseason (especially as he gets used to a few new targets in a lockout-shortened summer).

But when Flacco threw that pick-six to DeAngelo Hall on the opening drive -- an inexcusable play, sure -- you know the rabble-rousing Ravens fans started writing dialogue for their Friday morning talk radio phone calls. He bounced back, though, and led the Ravens on three touchdown drives (two against the Redskins’ first-team defense). At night’s end, he was 17-of-27 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and a very Flacco-like 97.6 rating.

Understandably, inconsistency was a key theme with the paid Friday morning quarterbacks. My Baltimore Sun colleague Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote about Flacco’s “maddening” tendency to start games slowly. Mike Preston said it’s hard to tell if Flacco has improved this offseason. CSN Baltimore’s John Eisenberg broke down the highs and lows from Thursday night’s game. And The Washington Post’s Rick Maese wrote that “the Good Joe Flacco showed up, but as is often the case, so did the Bad.”

Again, I am preaching patience with Flacco. It would be nice to see progress in the preseason, but unless his development takes an unforeseen nose dive in 2011, he will be judged when the games really count. The season opener against Roethlisberger and the Steelers is a big one, for sure, and it’s just over two weeks away. Flacco deserves the benefit of the doubt until we see how he fares in the divisional showdown at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 11.

If Flacco crashes and burns, then we can start panicking a little bit. In the meantime, let’s worry about aftershocks, Hurricane Irene and other unforeseen natural disasters that may hit Baltimore this week.

Your turn: Should we be worrying about Joe Flacco?

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