Ravens second-year quarterback Troy Smith may have to deliver a knockout performance tomorrow night if he wants to win the the starting job, at least to start the regular season.
Reports from Sun reporters in Westminster put Kyle Boller ahead in the three-way quarterback competition but that's not to say Boller's performance has towered above that of Smith or rookie Joe Flacco. If it were a prize fight, you could say Boller is ahead on points and that's why I say Smith would need a "knockout" performance when he gets the start tomorrow night against the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium.
It could still happen that Smith wins this starting job because head coach John Harbaugh is going to weight the games more than the practices, or at least that is what he has said. And there is always the possibility that Boller could play himself out of a job but I don't think so -- he's developing into too smart a QB to do that. What could happen is that Boller starts the season but is eventually replaced. In all cases, though, the quarterbacks are being held hostage to a situation where injuries have sidelined half of the offensive starting lineup, including the two tackles.
Interestingly, from among this year's draft class, it might be running back Ray Rice who winds up being the most productive, particularly if Willis McGahee doesn't come back from from arthroscopic knee surgery as quickly as projected or if the knee winds up being a chronic problem. So Rice is one of those players you want to watch and a lot will depend on how he handles his duties when he doesn't have the football. It doesn't help if a running back gets you five yards on a carry and then gives up a 10-yard sack because of a bad blitz pick-up.
Because Ed Reed is still nursing an injury, you might want to keep an eye on the Ravens' two rookie safeties, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski, and you have to wonder if defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will find a spot in some of his defensive formations for fourth-year safety Jim Leonhard.
Photo: Patrick Smith/Sun