The “Is Joe Flacco elite?” debate has died down a bit over the past few years. And after a 2015 season in which Flacco posted some of the worst numbers of his career and his Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs, the answer to that question sure seemed to be a pretty definitive “no.”

Chris Long wouldn’t agree with that assessment, though. The New England Patriots defensive end dropped the “e” word three times while praising Flacco before Wednesday’s Patriots practice.

“You start with the arm strength,” Long told reporters.” He’s got elite arm strength. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can move around a little better than people give him credit for in the pocket. He does a lot of things that make him an elite quarterback.”

Added Long, whose team is preparing to host Flacco and the Ravens on Monday night: “As far as I can remember, Baltimore’s been one of the more physical teams in the league. Coach (John) Harbaugh does a great job with that. They’ve got guys up front, good skill guys. Obviously, Joe, being an elite quarterback in the league, is a big challenge.”

To Long’s point, Flacco definitely has improved this season. He’s on pace for career bests in completion percentage and passing yards, though his 15-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio still leaves much to be desired.

More from Wednesday:

— Maryland is a hotbed for lacrosse, giving Patriots coach and noted lax superfan Bill Belichick plenty to talk about during his conference call with Baltimore reporters.

“It’s a great sport,” Belichick said. “Obviously, such a great part of Baltimore and Maryland tradition. Crabs and lacrosse, that’s part of what that area is — a big part of the culture there and it transcends the new people that move into the new area. They pick up on it pretty quickly and enjoy it and embrace it and see the way the game is spreading throughout this country and internationally, really. But it’s now become much more of a national sport.”

Belichick played lacrosse growing up in Annapolis, Md., and in college at Wesleyan, and he remains a fan of Johns Hopkins University, which is located in Baltimore. He said he’d “love to get to five” Johns Hopkins games this spring and expressed regret he wasn’t able to attend an event Wednesday night hosted by former Hopkins star Paul Rabil.

“(Wednesday night) is Paul Rabil’s big event in New York,” Belichick said. “I know Paul does a great job with his foundation and supporting lacrosse and some of the underprivileged programs that need support in lacrosse. I wish that I could be there to support Paul in that event, but I can’t do it here (Wednesday night). I know that’s a big one in New York. A lot of those benefits will go back to that area and what Paul’s done in the Baltimore area.”

Rabil played seven seasons for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse before being traded to the New York Lizards in 2015.

Thumbnail photo via Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports Images