Best face on race

Ravens QB Competition

July 23, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Troy Smith struggled. Kyle Boller played it safe. And Joe Flacco fell somewhere in the middle.

All three quarterbacks took different first steps as the Ravens began training camp yesterday, but each took the same approach after practice.

One by one, Smith, Boller and Flacco spoke to reporters, essentially saying the same lines:

They want to be friends. They want to help each other learn the offense. And they just want to help the team win.

So, can this quarterback battle really be heated if the competitors lack fire?

"The fact that they're friends and they're good guys, that's just being good sports," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But make no mistake about it - every one of those three guys wants the job. It's really not a 'nice guy contest.' We're all nice guys, but it's a quarterback contest."

Smith was given the first snaps in the red-zone drill but didn't live up to that honor.

The former Heisman Trophy winner was 1-for-5 passing, throwing three interceptions and fumbling the first snap. One of Smith's passes was picked off by 47-year-old secondary coach Chuck Pagano, who was filling in as a defensive back.

Boller completed all four of his passes, but none went beyond 10 yards. And Flacco was 1-for-3 in his first training-camp practice, but his one completion was threaded in between tight coverage 15 yards downfield.

Still, it's dangerous to draw conclusions after one practice. Harbaugh initially said the decision-making process wouldn't begin until full-team workouts later in the week before couching his remark.

"We say it doesn't start today and you say it's hard to evaluate, but of course, you're standing there and evaluating," he said. "You're watching guys make throws and watching them handle the offense. But you certainly aren't making any decisions yet."

Here's how the quarterbacks stack up against each other at the start of camp:

TROY SMITH

Accuracy This is the biggest question mark surrounding Smith, who uses an overhand delivery. He had a career completion rate of 62.7 percent at Ohio State but completed 52.6 percent of his passes as an NFL rookie last season.

Arm strength

His ability to throw the ball deep is overshadowed by Boller and Flacco, two of the biggest arms in the league. But Smith's 79-yard touchdown heave to Derrick Mason last year in Seattle proved he can throw downfield.

Poise

The most impressive part of Smith's two starts last season was he didn't blink. His composure in the huddle immediately drew praise from the veterans.

Size and athleticism

Smith has repeatedly heard that he doesn't have prototypical NFL size (6 feet) for a quarterback. That can be offset by Smith's ability to move out of the pocket.

Leadership

Smith has the most confidence of any Ravens quarterback, perhaps too much at times. Still, the veterans seem to respond to his cocky demeanor.

Overall

Smith has a solid chance to be the Ravens' starter this season, but he seems destined to be the team's long-term answer at backup quarterback.

KYLE BOLLER

Just like he did against New England last season, Boller can make all the throws. He just can't do it on a consistent basis.

Boller can launch passes as far as any quarterback in the NFL. Getting them there on target is another story.

Mistakes have marred Boller's career. In 53 games, he has 63 turnovers (44 interceptions and 19 fumbles lost).

Boller has everything teams want in a quarterback. He has prototypical size (6-3) and athleticism.

Teammates admire the toughness of Boller, who has taken some nasty hits over his career. But Boller's questionable decision-making has soured some in the locker room.

This is likely Boller's final season with the Ravens. But he'll land somewhere because he has proven to be a capable backup.

JOE FLACCO

Whether it's nerves or inexperience, Flacco has the tendency to put too much zip on his throws. But the Ravens are confident that he'll become more accurate over time.

His high-arcing throws were the highlights of the offseason minicamps. The passes were usually on target, too.

Flacco seems to have a strong mind-set for a rookie and shouldn't get rattled easily. Even when he speaks, one can sense a calmness about him.

Everyone knows that Flacco is 6-6, but he impressed the coaching staff with his ability to move around. He is smoother than most anticipated.

This is tough to gauge at this point. But typically, teams rally around successful quarterbacks.

Flacco is the franchise quarterback. Even if he isn't the starter for the season opener, he'll likely get on the field at some point this season.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.