Boller regains starting job

OWINGS MILLS -- Kyle Boller has regained his job as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback, inheriting the worst scoring offense in the NFL two months after injuring his toe. Following his recovery from a hyperextended right big toe in the season opener, Boller will be under center Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Once again, Anthony Wright is the backup.

The Ravens (2-6) are banking on Boller reviving a lethargic offense that's one of the major reasons they're in last place in the AFC North. Baltimore is averaging only 12.1 points per game and ranks 26th in total offense.

"Kyle Boller is our starting quarterback, and we weren't going to change that perspective after he got hurt," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who considering inserting him in Sunday's 21-9 loss to the Bengals. "We're committed to his development, committed to him being the guy. We have no reason to think that Kyle Boller isn't the quarterback we all thought he could be."

For Boller, 24, this is supposed to be a critical year in his development. Entering his third season, the Ravens hired Jim Fassel as offensive coordinator, Rick Neuheisel as quarterbacks coach and acquired wide receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton.

Because of his injury, though, the Ravens haven't gotten to see how Boller will do with improved personnel.

"All I can do is go out there and work," said Boller, who threw eight touchdowns and five interceptions in the second half of last season. "It's about being efficient, getting the ball in the end zone, scoring points and not turning the ball over. You do those things and you're going to have a chance to win.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there with the guys. It's been hard, sitting and watching. The opportunity has come. I'm going to hopefully take advantage of it."

Boller struggled at times during his first two seasons since being drafted in the first round out of Cal-Berkeley. He has a 68.0 career passer rating with 20 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and 54.7 percent accuracy.

The second half is unlikely to produce a playoff berth, barring an unprecedented 8-0 run. However, it offers the Ravens a chance to find out if Boller is a viable NFL starter, or a wasted 19th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

"There's no reason not to let him finish the second half and see what kind of run we can get on and continue to have that full resume that allows us to know exactly what kind of decisions need to be made during the offseason," Billick said. "We're fortunate because I was not certain that it was going to turn out that way. Hopefully, he can stay healthy to give us the information we need to move forward."

Boller, who said he'll wear special orthotics in his cleats so his toe can't be bent backward, claims his toe is no longer an issue. After running the scout team last week and serving as the third quarterback, Boller says he's primed for greater challenges.

"I feel like it's not going to affect what I'm doing out there," Boller said. "I'm 100 percent running the ball, 100 percent throwing the ball and I'm going to be able to go out there and play 100 percent."
Wright posted a 2-5 record as a starter and didn't recapture the spark he demonstrated in 2003 when he led Baltimore to its lone division title. He completed 61.7 percent for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 71.7 passer rating, second-worst in the AFC.

"Anthony did a solid job for us," Billick said. "Anthony does not deserve not to be the starting quarterback going forward. His numbers are solid. This is not a factor of Anthony deserves not to be the starting quarterback. There's no reason not to go back to Kyle."

Particularly since this offense was designed specifically for Boller, who sports a strong arm but has had accuracy and decision-making issues. Against Indianapolis, Boller completed 15 of 23 passes (65.2 percent) for 141 yards and an interception.

"I'm excited about that," Billick said. "I'm excited about him re-emerging into the lineup, and seeing where we can go with that."

Boller said he sought advice from former NFL quarterback Chris Chandler during his convalescence.

"He told me, ‘Sometimes when you're out there you make the game more difficult than it is,'" Boller said. "All you've got to do is find the open guys. As easy as that makes it sound, you've just go to get it out of your hands and into the playmakers' hands.

"That's ultimately what it's all about. I have to digest that."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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