Boller primed to assume starting quarterback job

The coronation of rookie Kyle Boller as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback is almost formalized. All the first-round draft pick lacks at this point is a figurative crown.

BALTIMORE - Boller appeared to unseat incumbent passer Chris Redman with a commanding display of arm strength, touch and mobility in the Ravens' 30-24 loss to the shorthanded New York Giants before 68,169 on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has done everything but anoint Boller publicly as his latest starter. Multiple published reports have proclaimed that the $20 million man was already Billick's choice barring a total collapse against the Giants. Instead of faltering, Boller achieved nearly the highest possible quarterback rating, a 151.2, in completing seven of his nine passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. "His performance was obviously very good," said Billick, who declined to signal Boller's ascension immediately, "We'll get a resolution on that and address it on Saturday."

Meanwhile, absolutely nothing went right for Redman as he completed one of his six passes for only 11 yards and fumbled a snap that led to a score.

With a flick of his wrist in the first quarter of his second start in a row, Boller launched a perfect spiral to receiver Travis Taylor in stride for a 49-yard touchdown. Boller staked Baltimore (1-3) to a 17-0 lead against the Giants' starters.

Boller muscled passes past cornerbacks' fingertips. He scrambled away from defenders. He made the proper decision to throw the football out of bounds one play before a Matt Stover field goal. "Kyle put on a good show and we are going to put it all together," running back Jamal Lewis said. Boller also found sliding Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap for a 19-yard gain to set up his adept play-action toss for receiver Marcus Robinson's touchdown as a Raven. "My teammates made it really easy for me," Boller said. "They put me in the right position and good things happened."

If the Boller era begins against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season-opener Sept. 7, the former Cal star would become the Ravens' ninth different starting quarterback since Billick came to town in 1998. The impending decision signals this continued trend: Billick has never had the same quarterback start consecutive season-openers.

This means preparing Boller for the Steelers' complicated blitz package disguised by defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and orchestrated by swift linebackers Jason Gildon, Kendrell Bell and Joey Porter. "They're going to throw the kitchen sink at this kid, every blitz possible," said ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, a former Steelers running back. "It's going to be a blur for him with their blitz packages. "It's a tough situation for him to try to light them up. Brian will understand that and surely won't hang him out to dry."

The Ravens' sloppiness led to 30 unanswered points, including: a fumbled punt by Ryan Brewer, a fumbled kickoff by Chester Taylor and a fumbled exchange between Redman and center Casey Rabach. Plus, Dave Zastudil had a partially blocked punt that led to a touchdown. Quarterback was the chief story line of the evening for Baltimore, though.

Boller was noticeably more animated than he was during his shaky performance in a 24-3 loss Saturday to the Washington Redskins. He shook his fist after his pass to Taylor. "I noticed that Kyle wears his emotions on his sleeve," said Joe Theismann, an ESPN analyst and former Washington Redskins quarterback. "A quarterback's body language is important. "Kyle can't let his head and shoulders drop after a bad throw. Not only do you see it on television, but your teammates can feel it. Generally, I saw poise."

The patience Boller has demonstrated even in dumping the ball of short against the Redskins was cited as a determining factor in Billick's conditional decision. Not to mention Boller's superior velocity and aggression in attacking defenses vertically. Perhaps it was telling that Redman was forced to mop up as the target of the Redskins' pass rush. That isn't how most starting quarterback candidates spend their August nights.

If Boller is officially named the starter, it would fulfill a promise made by the organization after the draft: that he would get a chance to start this fall months removed from the Berkeley campus.

NOTES: Wide receiver Randy Hymes left with a sprained anterior cruciate ligament along with fullback Harold Morrow (right forearm contusion), offensive guard Jim Jones (sprained right knee). … Receiver Frank Sanders (toes), cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring), running back Musa Smith (knee) and cornerback Alvin Porter (groin) didn't play. … Taylor rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries, but fumbled twice. …

Anthony Wright threw a touchdown to rookie tight end Lamar Hill in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll Coujnty Times.


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