Continuing struggles throw Boller for loss

Ravens QB makes errors, tries to force plays during preseason defeat to Eagles

August 22, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Kyle Boller's preseason struggles were summed up by a play that should never have materialized.

On the Ravens' third drive of Saturday's 20-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Boller missed a handoff to his running back but still tried to make something happen by giving the ball to receiver Derrick Mason on a reverse. Expecting only a fake, a surprised Mason nearly fumbled the exchange before taking a 7-yard loss.

Watching his quarterback compound one mistake upon another, Ravens coach Brian Billick put his right hand on Boller's shoulder and calmly told him, "[Mason] wasn't expecting the ball, so you have to eat that one."

Boller's difficulties can't be attributed to a lack of effort. If anything, the third-year starter tries too hard.

When a receiver isn't open, he needs to learn to throw the ball away. When his pass protection collapses around him, he needs to learn to take the sack.

It all goes back to the one lesson he has yet to fully grasp: how to show poise in the pocket.

"I'm going to continue to talk to him," said Mason, the team's top free-agent signing this offseason. "He just needs to calm down a little bit. He wants to make a play so bad sometimes. A couple of times, he got pressured and tried to get the ball out quickly. But with guys on your back, it's hard to do that. He needs to stay composed like the player he is."

After an uneven preseason opener in Atlanta, Boller regressed further against an Eagles defense that brought more blitzes.

In 10 pass plays against the Philadelphia starters, he was pressured five times. The result was two interceptions, one fumble and one sack.

It's a start that resembled the past two seasons - when the Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing in 2003 and second-to-last in 2004 - and not the one envisioned for an offense that added Mason, receiver Mark Clayton, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel.

Asked whether the rough preseason start has shaken his confidence, Boller said: "You've got to be confident at this position; you can never doubt yourself. You can learn from your mistakes, but if I go out next week and be hesitant and don't make throws because you don't want to throw an interception - you can't play it that way at this position."

Boller's first interception against the Eagles was the combination of a poor throw and a miscommunication.

Facing pressure with an empty backfield, Boller said he saw two of his primary reads - running back Chester Taylor and tight end Daniel Wilcox - run into each other. His pass, which was thrown off Boller's back foot, sailed over every Raven and into the hands of Philadelphia safety Michael Lewis.

"I didn't know what to do with it," Boller said. "It was one where I tried to hold it as long as I could. I let it go, and I threw it to the safety. It just took off on me."

Boller said the second interception was "out of my control."

With linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in his face, Boller couldn't step into his throw but still tossed it downfield, where safety Brian Dawkins picked off the underthrown pass.

"Two interceptions in two quarters is tough," Boller said. "I've got to be able to look at this tape and figure out the problem. It was mistakes that can't happen, especially at this level. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to correct the mistakes and move on."

Halfway through the preseason, time is running out on fixing these problems.

The usual plan is to play the starters three quarters in the third preseason game and just one quarter in the last one.

"Hopefully, everything will work itself out," Mason said. "Kyle's working hard, and he's doing some good things. We just have to establish a rhythm. Kyle's going to be all right."

NOTES: Players were off yesterday and return to practice today at the team's Owings Mills training complex. Workouts are closed to the public. ... Backup quarterback Anthony Wright, who has yet to play a snap with the starters, finished 14-for-23 for 140 yards. He led an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and put together a 76-yard series at the end of the game that came up short. "Anthony did some good things," Billick said of Wright, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. "You can tell the rust is there to a degree, but I thought he did really very well." ... In the battle for the kickoff specialist job, Rhys Lloyd sent his only attempt to the 15-yard line and Owen Pochman hit his tries to the 10- and 6-yard lines.

Next for Ravens

Preseason matchup: Ravens (0-2) at New Orleans Saints (1-1)

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/1300 AM, 102.7 FM

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