Wright can offer Ravens a better starting point

September 13, 2005|By Mike Preston

THE CHANGE of quarterbacks would be more acceptable under less mitigating circumstances, but most of the Ravens preferred Anthony Wright as the starter over Kyle Boller.

Ravens coach Brian Billick announced yesterday that Boller would not start Sunday's game against Tennessee, and possibly several more, because of a turf toe injury he suffered in the season opener Sunday night against the Colts.

And while a lot of players have sympathy for Boller, especially after some fans distastefully cheered as Boller lay injured on the field Sunday, the reality is that most of the Ravens thought their chances of winning were higher with Wright than Boller.

That's just reality.

You saw it two years ago when Boller was injured, Wright replaced him and teammates lobbied Billick to keep Wright in the starting lineup. You still see it now.

Watch the body language of players in the huddle with Wright as compared to Boller. There's more of an urgency, more spirit, more hustle. Players aren't going to talk about it publicly because it causes problems, but privately most of them wanted Wright.

Clearly, Wright outplayed Boller in the preseason, but the Ravens aren't any different than other NFL clubs. Scouts and organizations pride themselves and build their reputations on draft picks. The Ravens made Boller a first-round selection three years ago, and have invested a lot of time and money in his development.

Is Wright, 29, significantly better than Boller, 24? Is he the long-term answer? The answer is no to both questions. But he can make this offense better.

First, Wright gives this team a lift mentally. He's cocky and has a little strut when he walks. He perpetuates energy, and exudes confidence, which this team lacked under Boller. Secondly, and most importantly of all, he throws better than Boller.

Wright is more accurate on the intermediate and long-range passes. With Boller, you basically needed 10- to 12-play drives to score because he was so inaccurate on anything other than short passes.

Seldom do teams have four or five long drives a game anymore. Defenses now attack instead of being attacked. With Wright, the Ravens can score from anywhere on the field. Third-and-10 or third-and-12 aren't mission impossible.

Wright sometimes scrambles with a purpose; Boller roams because he panics.

"The good news is we've been down this road with Anthony," said Billick. "Anthony had a lot of rust to knock off. I think he's done that. We've won a division with Anthony at quarterback, so we've got confidence with Anthony."

Let's not get too carried away and think Wright is the next John Elway or Dan Marino. Far from it. He's a big tease. On some occasions, he can make some of the toughest throws in the game; the outs to the far side of the field, the 15- to 20-yard curls in the middle of the field. He has a nice touch on the long ball.

But then there are days when he throws into double coverage, or tries to make too much happen instead of just taking a sack.

Then all you ask is why, why, why?

But if the Ravens can get him to manage a game better, Wright will be serviceable, a step above Boller. Like Boller, he won't make or break the Ravens this season.

As I mentioned at the start of training camp, the success of the Ravens will be dictated by the play of the offensive and defensive lines.

If the defensive line holds up at the end of the season, the Ravens will be successful. Offensively, the line has struggled both with the running game as well as pass blocking. The unit has been disappointing so far, and needs to improve if the Ravens want to go deep into the postseason.

Like Boller, the Ravens can't rely on Wright's arm to carry the team.

But it will be interesting to see how far Wright can take this team, or if he has to relinquish the job once Boller returns.

Two years ago, the Ravens won the AFC North title with Wright as the starter. He started the final seven games of the 2003 season, completing 94 of 178 passes for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns with receivers such as Travis Taylor, Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson.

Now he has Derrick Mason on the outside, and Mark Clayton waiting to replace Clarence Moore as the No. 2 receiver. He had a year for his shoulder to heal, and now has teammates that really wanted him as the starter anyway over Boller.

Now, let's see what the Ravens can do with the man of their choice.

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