Boller is back

Ravens QB to return Sunday

`we're committed to him'

November 08, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Kyle Boller has regained the Ravens' starting quarterback job, taking charge of the team's struggling offense for the second half of the season.

How long he lasts beyond that is unknown.

Boller, who has been sidelined since hyperextending his right big toe in the season opener, has yet to establish himself as a legitimate NFL starter. The final eight weeks of the regular season likely will determine which direction the Ravens will go at quarterback.

The Ravens (2-6) have repeatedly expressed their faith in Boller since drafting him in the first round in 2003, but yesterday's vote of confidence came with a caveat.

"We're committed to his development. We're committed to him being the guy," coach Brian Billick said. "We have no reason to think that Kyle Boller isn't the quarterback that we all thought he could be. It's his opportunity to continue to have that full resume - like any number of players - that will allow us to know exactly what decisions need to be made in the offseason."

In replacing Anthony Wright, Boller will attempt to revive an offense in shambles Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens have produced the seventh-fewest yards in the NFL and the fewest points in the league (12.1 per game).

Perhaps the most troubling statistic is this: The Ravens haven't scored 20 points in a game in a league in which every team has reached that mark at least twice.

In Sunday's 21-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens failed to score a touchdown for the second time in three games.

"It's been hard on me sitting and watching," said Boller, who has missed seven starts. "The opportunity has come. I'm glad it's here and I'm going to hopefully take advantage of it."

Boller appeared to have turned the corner at the end of last season. In the final 10 games, he averaged 182.3 yards passing, throwing for 11 touchdowns with six interceptions.

But he regressed during a rocky preseason and seemed to lose any built-up confidence.

In the season opener, he failed to lead a scoring drive before getting injured on a sack. Lying on the ground, Boller could hear some fans in the M&T Bank Stadium crowd cheering.

Now, the Ravens are looking to see if he can spark the offense and live up to his potential.

Traditionally, a team should be able to tell if a quarterback can succeed in the NFL by his third season as a starter. Under contract for the next two years, Boller is scheduled to make $633,750 in 2006 and $797,500 in 2007.

"I'm excited about him re-emerging into the lineup and seeing where we can go with that," Billick said. "We're fortunate - because I was not certain that it was going to turn out that way - that we have a full half of the season, and hopefully he can stay healthy to give us the information we need to move forward."

With Boller back as the starter, Wright will serve as the No. 2 quarterback. He was the 25th-rated passer in the NFL, throwing six touchdowns passes and nine interceptions.

The Ravens are expected to release Kordell Stewart, who served as backup when Boller was hurt. The team has a third quarterback (Brian St. Pierre) on its practice squad.

"Anthony did a solid job for us," Billick said. "This is not a factor of, `Anthony doesn't deserve to be the starting quarterback.' [But] there's any number of players, like Anthony, that could have performed better."

Billick expects Boller to have rust but indicated his quarterback was medically cleared to play Sunday. Boller has worked as the scout-team quarterback for the past two weeks.

As a precautionary measure, Boller will wear an insert in his shoe that will protect him from hyperextending the toe again.

"I feel like I'm 100 percent," Boller said. "I feel like it's not going to affect what I'm doing out there. I'm 100 percent running the ball, 100 percent throwing the ball, and I'm going to be able to go out there and play 100 percent."

Boller's return comes at the midway point in a season of turmoil.

The Ravens are alone in last place in the AFC North, with their six losses coming by an average margin of 11.2 points.

"The first half[stunk]," Billick said.

The Ravens haven't been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but that's a mere technicality. To realistically be in contention for a wild-card spot, they would need to win their remaining eight games, which would entail beating division leaders Cincinnati and Denver on the road.

"It's a difficult place for us now," Billick said. "This is my 14th year coaching in the league, and frankly, I've never been here before. I've never been a part of a team - and I am responsible for that - to be in a position where you are this far removed from the potential of a playoff picture. We're going to hold on as long as we can, but obviously we're talking long odds right now."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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