Ravens' QB job remains up for grabs

OWINGS MILLS -- Confusion continues to reign in the Baltimore Ravens' sputtering quarterback competition as neither Troy Smith or Kyle Boller have delivered convincing arguments for why they should be named the starter.

Because both candidates for the job haven't created any real separation other than the coaching staff deciding that they're better options at this point than rookie Joe Flacco, the Ravens have reached another crossroads in their ongoing quarterback saga.

In the aftermath of some ugly moments under center Saturday night in a 23-15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Ravens are trying to get their bearings and figure out who should start the third preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.

Traditionally, the third preseason game acts as a dress rehearsal for the starters. In the Ravens' case, it may be needed to determine who should lead the offense Sept. 7 in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I think they had some good moments and some not-so good moments," coach John Harbaugh said diplomatically. "There were some opportunities to learn in a game like this. It's hard to say what kind of separation it was or wasn't. You have to look at the tape."

Smith wound up rushing for more yards than he did passing as he completed just 3 of 5 passes for a paltry 25 yards while being sacked twice and intercepted once for a disturbing 33.3 quarterback rating.

His longest pass was 10 yards, and his interception to safety Darren Sharper came off a deflection when he threw slightly behind wide receiver Mark Clayton on a slant pattern.

"It was all right, it can definitely get better," Smith said. "There are some areas on the field where my passing game can get better. Especially toward the end of the half, it was totally my fault. I'm not trying to say I was greedy, but I should have went elsewhere."

The bright spot for Smith was scrambling for 35 yards on three runs, including an 18-yard scamper.

His superior mobility could be a major plus for him since both starting offensive tackles are hobbled with sprained ankles.

Meanwhile, Boller averaged just five yards per completion as he connected on his first eight throws in going 8 for 12 for 40 yards and an interception for a 36.8 rating. He didn't drive the Ravens past the Vikings' 38-yard line. In two preseason games, the former starter and first-round draft pick has a team-high three turnovers on two interceptions and a lost fumble.

Overall, Boller has completed 19 of 27 passes for 142 yards no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 51.8 rating. While he has completed a team-high 70.4 percent of his throws, he's averaging just 7.4 yards per throw. Smith has completed just 8 of 17 throws for 99 yards on a team-low 47.1 percent accuracy with no touchdown passes for a 41.1 rating.

None of the Ravens' quarterbacks have thrown a single touchdown pass in eight quarters.

"As a trio, we have so much to learn and so far to go," Smith said. "It's only the second exhibition game. But because of the work we're putting into it, it seems like eight games."

With running back Willis McGahee and tight end Todd Heap out with injuries, the offense is missing two of its best weapons. Further complicating the situation is trying to absorb offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's new system.

Flacco displayed some signs that he's beginning to catch on, going 10 for 15 for 74 yards and a 78.2 rating against the Vikings. It was a major upgrade after debuting with a 0 for 3 outing and a fumble against the New England Patriots.

Flacco had an interception negated by a defensive penalty, but did have his moments operating the hurry-up offense before misfiring to wide receiver Justin Harper in the red zone to end the game.

"I thought I did a pretty good job and felt more comfortable," Flacco said. "I was a little bit more in the flow of the game. It was a lot of fun for me to get in the two-minute drill."

Despite the fact that Flacco has a team-best 65.5 rating and is the only Baltimore quarterback that hasn't officially thrown an interception, he has been eliminated from the competition.

"I think Troy and Kyle, by the basis of practice so far, have separated themselves from Joe in terms of being ready to line up and win a football game for us at this level," Harbaugh said. "It's not to say it couldn't happen, but, right now, they've moved ahead of him."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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