Finale provides a few glimpses of what Smith, others could be

ON THE RAVENS

December 31, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Ravens rookie quarterback Troy Smith started his second straight game yesterday, and his performance was an upgrade over last week in Seattle.

Smith didn't look as if he would become an eventual Hall of Famer, but he showed poise, made some big throws and did a solid job managing the game.

You can find enough good and bad things about his play to knock or applaud him, but the bottom line is that Smith has gotten better.

He had pocket awareness and some touch on the long throw. He was slow in his decision-making on the timing patterns, but that will get better with experience.

Smith's major drawback yesterday was he threw as many bad passes as good ones and should have had four interceptions if it weren't for the rainy conditions.

Performance review

According to a report on Fox's pre-game show, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sent some team employees into the locker room to conduct interviews with players about whether coach Brian Billick had lost control of his team.

According to the report, Billick had, in fact, lost the players.

No shock there, but this decision is about money. Bisciotti will bring Billick back for one more season but force him to add an offensive coordinator.

Hopefully, that person won't be a yes man for Billick, and the Ravens might be onto something. With a new offensive coordinator, there is a long-shot chance they might get left tackle Jonathan Ogden back for another season.

Looking ahead

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense was in slow motion, and the slowest play of the year came midway in the second quarter. On the play, Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch couldn't find running back Najeh Davenport on a play-action fake.

Once he did, Batch looked downfield, found no one open, and then threw a pass in the right flat to Davenport. Before all that happened, one side of the Pittsburgh offensive line went on the snap count, and the other moved seconds later.

A lot of times, the final game of the season looks a lot like the preseason games.

My hat, though, goes off to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. With his team trailing 27-7 late in the third quarter, he stayed with the running game, taking time off the clock.

He didn't care much about the score. If the Steelers wanted to win that badly, they wouldn't have waited until the fourth quarter to take more shots downfield. They kept their cars running outside the stadium.

1, 2, 3, 4 ...

It's one thing to give up sacks on blitzes because the offensive line is outnumbered. But each game, the Ravens allow at least two sacks with the opposing team rushing only four players.

That shouldn't happen because the offensive linemen outnumber the rushers 5-4. Or maybe the Ravens can't count past four.

Nick Who?

With 4:44 left in the first half, Ravens linebacker Nick Greisen recovered a fumble by teammate David Pittman at Pittsburgh's 32-yard line.

The Ravens had great field position but lost it because Griesen was called for delay of game for spiking the ball.

Remember Greisen, who filled in for the injured Ray Lewis yesterday. He might not be around next season.

Offensive line shuffle

Because the Ravens are unsure whether veteran center Mike Flynn will be back next season, they might contemplate moving left guard Jason Brown to center and backup center Chris Chester to guard.

Chester struggled at center while filling in for Flynn earlier in the season, and Brown gives them more of a physical presence at the point of attack.

Also, Chester came in as the tight end on short-yardage situations yesterday. One more thing about the offensive line: Rookie right guard Ben Grubbs has excellent technique when pulling.

Ross' romp

Ravens backup running back Cory Ross showed great explosiveness during the game and had an excellent 32-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

You know what they say about Ross: You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

Take him to school

During the offseason, someone should tell Yamon Figurs when and how to catch a punt. He has good speed and acceleration, but his brain doesn't match his physical talents.

Dreaming of 2008?

I kept seeing Smith hook up with receiver Devard Darling, and I couldn't help but have flashbacks.

Smith to Darling. It could end up right there with Unitas to Berry, Bradshaw to Swann and Brady to Moss.

Nah, I was just dreaming, just like the Ravens when they failed to cover the Steelers' onside kick in the fourth quarter.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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