Boller's bold performance in debut impresses Ravens


In evaluating rookie quarterback Kyle Boller's Ravens debut, Matt Cavanaugh saw a dash of patience, a pinch of toughness and tons of confidence.

Patience was Boller taking a sack on his first throw rather than risking an interception.

Toughness was powering a 39-yard pass to Trent Smith while getting a bruising hit on the biceps.

And confidence? The telling play of Boller's late heroics was threading a 26-yard touchdown pass between two Buffalo Bills defenders and into the chest of Ravens receiver Randy Hymes.

Despite the dramatics in Saturday's 20-19 preseason loss to the Bills, Boller still finished with an uneven game and ranks second on the depth chart behind Chris Redman, whose efficient work continues to make him the front-runner to start the regular-season opener.

But Boller's first appearance confirmed all the ingredients that made him the 19th overall pick in the draft and a potential franchise quarterback.

"He was in a situation that can be tough on a young quarterback," said Cavanaugh, the Ravens' offensive coordinator, on Boller directing a successful hurry-up attack. "He handled it with a lot of poise. He made some difficult throws. He pulled the ball down and ran out of the pocket. He showed a lot of things that we're looking for in a quarterback."

Boller, who was 10-for-21 for 124 yards passing, delivered what has been missing recently in the Ravens' offense: Making the deep throw.

Three of his 10 completions in the second half went for 21, 26 and 39 yards. Last season, the Ravens had only three games that produced more passing plays covering 20-plus yards.

To throw those passes - especially the tough touchdown pass to Hymes -requires boldness and talent.

"It was a tight window," Boller said. "I kind of imagined Brett Favre because he can fire that baby in there."

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "Not a lot of guys have that kind of zip and the confidence to throw it in there. That was a special throw."

Creating big plays carried over into yesterday's rainy practice. Boller rolled out to hit Marcus Robinson for a 1-yard touchdown, heaved a high-arcing, 25-yard pass to Marc Lester, and muscled a 12-yard touchdown to John Jones.

"I came out of today's practice a lot more comfortable," Boller said. "I can't wait for the next game because I will be a lot more comfortable for that one."

That next game is Saturday at Atlanta, where it'll be interesting to see when Boller makes his appearance.

Before his training camp holdout, the Ravens planned to start Boller against the Falcons. Now, with Billick refusing to announce the quarterback rotation before games, it's uncertain when Boller will enter, although it would be surprising if the rookie out of California did not play in the first half.

"The key will be when he gets playing time with our regulars," Cavanaugh said. "Does he raise their level of play? Does he raise his own level of play? That's what we're looking for. If he can do that, then it's going to be real good."

If Boller does play with the starting group, he will need to tighten his game. He needs to improve on recognizing blitzes and sticking with fundamentals such as footwork and throwing motion.

On one pass, he fired it by solely relying on his arm strength and forgot about his mechanics, which caused the ball to sail low and into the turf.

"He did some things wrong," Cavanaugh said, "but he got the ball in the end zone twice and he used his legs and arms to do it."

Boller's initiation went smoother than that of another first-round pick. Cincinnati's Carson Palmer threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

So finishing with a quarterback rating of 82.2 is a big first step when considering the alternatives.

"When you come out of a game and you feel like you did some good things, that's a positive, particularly for a first-year guy," Cavanaugh said. "There's no question that with each positive thing that happens to him, it's going to reinforce in him that he has the ability to play at this level and play well. Then, it becomes a matter of, 'How do I maximize it and how do I eliminate mistakes?' "

Boller passed the first test by not sweating under pressure.

"The most important part of two-minute [offense] is your teammates knowing you're confident, they know we can rock n' roll," Boller said. "The defense in two minute is usually in prevent because they're scared. I think it's one of the easier times because you're composed."

Next for Ravens Preseason opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (105.7 FM)

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