At present, it's clear Ravens lack their quarterback of the future

On the Ravens

Jaguars 30 Ravens 3

Ravens Gameday

November 14, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- The new Kyle Boller looked like the old Kyle Boller. The new Kyle Boller looked a lot like Anthony Wright. The experiment is expected to last for seven more games, but it took only one to determine that the Ravens need to find a new No. 1 quarterback going into next season.

Only minutes after the Ravens were embarrassed in a 30-3 loss to Jacksonville yesterday, Boller sat on a stool sipping water out of a bottle. He looked drained and emotionless, much like the rest of the Ravens.

Brian Billick was lifeless, looking like a coach who had run out of excuses and one who certainly is running out of time. The Ravens were a beaten team, one that had hoped Boller's presence in the lineup would provide a much-needed spark.

But there are no miracles left in this 2005 season, only a housecleaning that has to take place in 2006.

What we saw yesterday was a third-year quarterback who was not only rusty but also frightened and physically worn down despite missing the previous seven games. In case you missed it, or were too busy putting away the patio furniture or cutting grass for the last time, Boller completed 19 of 33 passes for 142 yards and had three interceptions, one that was returned for a Jacksonville touchdown, another that killed a Ravens drive and another that should have resulted in a long touchdown.

We're not talking about quarterback-of-the-future numbers here. He ended the game with a passer rating of 30.1. It's only one game into Boller's comeback, but it's hard to imagine that a Phillip Rivers or a Matt Schaub can't be better.

The Ravens have to maintain the charade that Boller might be the quarterback of the future if he develops and shows promise during the remaining games, but they're only fooling themselves.

This is a team that has to get rid of a lot of veteran players, a club whose coach has lost his voice and command among the players. The Ravens need offensive linemen, defensive linemen and a quarterback they can build a franchise around.

There were all kinds of excuses for Boller yesterday, just as there have been for Wright. Boller was sacked four times and under duress many other times. He had not played since injuring his toe in the third quarter of the first game against the Indianapolis Colts. The play in a game is faster than in practice, so Boller has to get used to the pace again.

And blah, blah, blah.

But what we saw yesterday was a player, who despite eight weeks on the sideline, still doesn't have the arm strength to throw all the major routes in an NFL offense. If he had put a little more umph and air under the ball on a pass to rookie receiver Mark Clayton with 9:41 left in the game, they would have had a 64-yard touchdown. Instead, Jaguars safety Terry Cousin intercepted the ball.

The old problems still hamper Boller. He stared down receivers and couldn't provide touch on short passes. He hung one pass up over the middle that got receiver Derrick Mason crushed in the second quarter.

There were times when he looked and played like Wright. The only problem is that Wright was an undrafted free agent coming out of college, and no one thought he was going to be the Ravens' quarterback of the future. The Ravens drafted Boller in the first round, and they believe he might be the answer.

It's not happening, folks.

It's impossible for the Ravens to get a true assessment of Boller. This team is going nowhere. Like most losing teams in this situation, they play hard at home and not so hard on the road. The Ravens gave up sometime late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter yesterday. It's only going to get worse as the losses mount.

The truth is that Boller is serviceable, a backup at best just like Wright. The Ravens should begin plans to look elsewhere. Boller deserves his opportunity to be the starter the rest of the season, but he might not even make it the rest of the way. The first two times he was sacked were the result of his freezing under pressure. He lacked pocket awareness and made virtually no effort to get away.

On a third-and-10 play from the Ravens' 20 late in the first half, Boller took off on a scramble. He seemed to have enough room to make a first down. The old Boller had speed and acceleration. The new Boller had neither, and he got smashed by safety Gerald Sensabaugh after a 7-yard gain along the right sideline.

"My body will be a little sore since I haven't been hit in a while," Boller said.

Hit?

Boller got annihilated at times.

He did make some great throws. He lofted a nice touch pass over the head of cornerback Rashean Mathis and into the outstretched hands of Mason for a 35-yard reception in the third quarter, and he threw some nice fade routes to Randy Hymes. Most quarterbacks in the NFL can make those plays, but it has to be done consistently.

In previous years, the Ravens got away with serviceable quarterbacks because their defense forced turnovers and scored points. A Ravens quarterback's role was that of a caretaker, someone who didn't have to win games, just not make mistakes and lose them.

But it's going to be different next season, or at least it should be. The Ravens need to get rid of three or four of their starting offensive linemen. They need to revamp their running game and find a productive halfback. They might need to find a new head coach.

But they also have to find a quarterback. Their present quarterback of the future isn't that guy. They need to find a playmaker at the position, one who can carry a team when others around him don't play well. That's what good NFL quarterbacks do. That's not Boller. It never has been, and never will be.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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