Ravens feel Wright can shed the rust

OWINGS MILLS - In the Florida heat, Anthony Wright was trying to melt off two years of rust. It wasn't exactly the ideal scenario for the Baltimore Ravens' interim quarterback to refresh his instincts while rookie quarterback Kyle Boller recovers from leg surgery. Wright's starting debut with Baltimore, his first playing time in the regular season in two years, occurred in Sunday's 9-6 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium.

The former Dallas Cowboys starter threw two interceptions while completing 14 of his 25 passes for 112 yards as Baltimore (5-5) was limited to two field goals.  His interception on a fourth-quarter pass intended for tight end Todd Heap was probably his most glaring error. With the score tied and Baltimore driving, Wright threw the football behind Heap and safety Sammy Knight capitalized. "I feel like the more I play, the better off I'll be," said Wright, who dropped to 1-5 as a starter in his first action besides the preseason in 25 months. "I can build on some things that happened. Others, I have to correct quickly. We need to get over that mountain in order for us to be where we want to be." 

In overtime, Wright and Jamal Lewis managed to botch an exchange as Lewis' fumble led to the Dolphins' game-winning field goal. Overall, though, Wright was given a general nod of conditional approval. "He did some good things, converting third downs with his legs," receiver Travis Taylor said. "He's definitely a tough guy. He's one of the best athletes on this team. We can win with Anthony while Kyle is out." 

Wright didn't post much in the way of numbers, compiling a 34.1 quarterback rating. He was inaccurate on deep passes, underthrowing Marcus Robinson on a flag pattern in the first half that cornerback Sam Madison intercepted.  His longest completion was an 18-yard pass to Heap. His completion percentage of 56 percent was higher than Boller's season average of 51.6 percent. Boller is the lowest-ranked passer in the AFC with a 62.1 rating. "The guys were with me in the huddle," Wright said. "We were moving the football well. We just need to finish drives and cut out the mistakes and penalties to score some points." 

Wright demonstrated the mobility that Ravens coach Brian Billick touted as a reason to elevate him from the scout team to the first offense ahead of former starter Chris Redman. Wright was sacked three times, but executed several escapes from the Dolphins' pass rush, running away from swift defensive ends Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye. The coaching staff implemented waggle passes and designed rollouts to take advantage of Wright's ability to throw on the move.  "Clearly, he'd like to have a couple of throws back," Billick said. "I thought he executed the game plan very well. He was very confident, knew what was going on, didn't have any of the major tactical errors of, 'Geez, I didn't know he was hot. I didn't know what was going on here.'" 

Simply having knowledge of the offense doesn't satisfy Wright. Cut by Dallas last season after losing a controversial battle with Quincy Carter, Wright wants to make the most of this opportunity. In his previous eight games, Wright had posted totals of 46.4 percent accuracy, 766 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. Knight's interception troubled him the most on his first day not holding a clipboard in years. "It was a bad throw on my part," Wright said. "I couldn't step up into the pass and therefore it was a little behind. I know that I can hit that pass. I just hate the way it ended this time." 

With the offensive line struggling in pass protection for the past few weeks, it would have been a difficult situation for Redman to succeed in. That's primarily what prompted the promotion for Wright, who rushed twice for 11 yards. "He showed some great presence," Billick said. "He made some excellent throws. He needs to make more of them, and I think Anthony will as he gets back into a rhythm having been a starter. "It's hard to identify and say, 'Yeah, he played OK,' but it's something he can build on and I'm comfortable with the way he played." 

NOTES: The Ravens released receiver and return specialist Dedric Ward and re-signed defensive end Riddick Parker. ... Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will donate Thanksgiving dinners to 440 needy families on Nov. 25. … Last week, the Ronald McDonald House was robbed of video equipment worth $1,000 by a man wearing a Ravens jacket. Tight end John Jones donated money to make up for the loss. Jones and kicker Matt Stover hosted a screening of the movie "Elf" for children from Ronald McDonald House and St. Vincent's Center. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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