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ON THE RAVENS

Rushing T. Smith is rash

Boller will do for now

On Boller vs. T. Smith and Other Issues

December 18, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday he intends to start Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and it's a good move.

Baltimore is a city that has been so quarterback-deprived that there is a fan outcry to start anyone with promise, even a rookie like Troy Smith.

But there is no need to rush Smith - not behind this offensive line.

Boller played well against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but had to leave the game midway through the fourth quarter with a mild concussion.

Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State, also played well while leading the team on three possessions at the end of the game.

Everyone knows that Boller isn't the answer at quarterback and is just a backup, but Smith isn't ready to take all the repetitions in practice with the first team and then start against the Seahawks.

There is time, folks. Smith got a series and scored against the Indianapolis Colts, and he played with the game on the line against Miami. These are nice steps, and hopefully he'll get some time against Seattle.

But what is interesting is how the Ravens seemed to rally around Smith, and a lot of them seemed to prefer Smith over Boller, a five-year veteran.

Offensive line hitting wall?

The Ravens gave up four sacks against the Dolphins, and the offensive line might have bottomed out with two games remaining.

The Ravens have to be concerned because they start two rookies, right guard Ben Grubbs and right tackle Marshal Yanda.

The last six games of an NFL season are typically when rookies hit the wall with fatigue.

Most of the rookies haven't had a break since the summer leading into their senior season in college.

Yanda, more than Grubbs, appeared tired in the Miami game.

Wait till next year ...

Despite this poor season, the Ravens should be around .500 next season and will probably flirt with the playoffs.

The schedule will be somewhat easier, the Ravens will select high in each round of the draft and all the older guys who haven't played this season should be healthy, provided they aren't released.

Tight end Todd Heap, defensive end Trevor Pryce, wide receiver Samari Rolle, quarterback Steve McNair and even cornerback Chris McAlister have been on virtual sabbatical this season.

They'll be well-rested and, after the paid vacation of training camp at Camp Cream Puff, they should be ready to play.

And after 2008, they'll probably fall apart again.

Burned at cornerback

The Ravens don't have a depth problem; they have a cornerback problem.

The team has a solid nucleus of players for the future, with some really good prospects on the offensive line and at linebacker.

The problem is at cornerback, where the young players haven't proven they belong on an NFL roster. Who is to blame?

First of all, blame general manager Ozzie Newsome. He drafted them or signed them as free agents. Secondly, you have to look at the coaching.

Regardless of injuries, an assistant coach's job is to get the next player ready to perform. If that player isn't ready to play, some of the responsibility must fall on that assistant.

Since team officials have already declared that Billick will return next season, I suspect there are a lot of nervous assistant coaches at the Castle in Owings Mills.

Figurs' vanishing act

Rookie receiver Yamon Figurs had his first reception Sunday, catching a 36-yard pass. Then he disappeared from the game plan.

The Ravens went with a four-receiver set for possibly the first time this season, with one of the receivers in the backfield. The Dolphins had no clue how to defend it, which may have been why Figurs got open.

The Ravens, though, never went back to it in the second half, which is a shame, because it would have shown creativity - especially with Figurs, the fastest player on the roster.

`D' relies on Lewis

Billick suggested that Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis will be ready Sunday despite the dislocated finger that forced him out in the third quarter against Miami.

The Ravens can't afford to lose Lewis, especially if Rolle and McAlister don't play. Lewis is not only the team's leading tackler, he also aligns the defense.

After he left with 6:51 remaining, the Ravens gave up 12 points and 222 yards on five Dolphins series.

Flynn's staying power

Center Mike Flynn is in his 10th season, and he might be able to hang on for an 11th.

The Ravens wanted second-year center/guard Chris Chester to take over for Flynn this season, but Chester struggled while Flynn was out with injuries.

Now, Flynn might return for another season. He has had a good career for a free-agent rookie from the University of Maine.

Embarrassing duo

A hot question this week: Which was more embarrassing: the Orioles losing to the Texas Rangers, 30-3, in August, or the Ravens losing to the winless Dolphins?

My vote goes to the Ravens because no one really cares about the Orioles anymore.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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