To extend first-team audition, Boller may get preseason start

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The second chapter of the Ravens' quarterback saga contained no surprises, but the story line could receive an added twist over the next two weeks.

Although coach Brian Billick said he would not discuss his quarterback rotation this preseason, there is speculation that first-round pick Kyle Boller could make his first NFL start in one of the final two preseason games.

According to an article on the NFL's official Web site, the Ravens' coaches are still mulling over the decision, which would be based on fairness and not an indication that Boller is moving ahead in the race. To have a balanced competition, the coaches seem to agree they need to see the rookie out of California work with the starters for a significant period.

Boller, who has been competing against Chris Redman for the starting job, has received most of the playing time in the preseason while Redman has started both games.

Asked if it's easier to judge Boller and Redman when they're both playing with the starters, Billick said, "You would like to evaluate in kind and we got a little bit of that [Saturday night]."

In the 13-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, neither Boller nor Redman staked his claim to the starting job, as both turned in uneven performances.

For the second straight week, Redman gave a steady yet not spectacular effort and Boller delivered an exciting yet erratic display. Having one quarter apiece to work with the starters, Redman was 4-for-7 for 42 yards and Boller was 4-for-10 for 33 yards and one interception.

An official announcement of the regular-season starter might come as late as hours before the season-opening kickoff in Pittsburgh, but Ravens officials likely will have a good idea of the winner after Saturday night's preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Redman, who underwent offseason back surgery, said he believes he has convinced the coaching staff he can withstand a full season as starter. Beyond that, the fourth-year veteran isn't going to analyze what anyone is thinking.

"It's not my decision to make,'' Redman said. "I just go out there and play for as long as they want me to play. I kind of put the ball in their court and see what happens."

With Redman on Saturday night, the Ravens started three of their four drives at their 44-yard line or closer and managed just a field goal.

The biggest difficulty was failing to convert four third-down plays, which was mainly out of Redman's control.

The first drive ended when receiver Marcus Robinson dropped a pass. The second finished when the Ravens decided to run a reverse with receiver Travis Taylor. On the third, the Falcons had a six-man rush and Redman had to quickly throw the ball away. And the fourth closed when Jamal Lewis ran on third-and-17.

Redman's best passes were throwing over the linebackers to hit tight end Todd Heap for a 15-yard gain and finding Taylor on an 18-yard slant. His worst pass was his first deep attempt, a 39-yard toss that was underthrown and nearly picked off near the goal line.

"We're not where we want to be," Redman said. "We think we should score some more points, especially when we get the ball in such good field position. But we're not too far away, either. It's just very small things that are getting us right now. ... We're seeing what's going on. It's just a matter of taking that next step."

Boller entered in the second quarter and again showed a strong arm, quick feet and some questionable decision-making.

His first two drives were kept alive by his scrambling ability. On a third-and-two, he rolled out to escape a collapsing pocket and found Ron Johnson for an 8-yard gain. Then, on a third-and-seven, he scrambled 8 yards up the middle of the field.

But penalties and his inaccuracy conspired to produce no points in his three series with the starters. Boller's best scoring chance came when an interception set him up at the Falcons' 35. But he was picked off by cornerback Ray Buchanan on an out pattern because he threw to Johnson's inside shoulder - and into the coverage - rather than the outside.

After his first NFL interception, Boller led two scoring drives in the third quarter against Atlanta's second team. He finished 5-for-8 for 99 yards in that quarter.

"I think I continue to get more comfortable out there," Boller said. "I've got to be able to just react and play vs. trying to overthink things.

"The competition is in my head, but at the same time, I've got so much to learn. I can't focus on the competition. I'm focusing on learning the offense and doing the things that I need to do to be a better player."

QB comparison

A look at how Ravens quarterbacks Chris Redman and Kyle Boller have fared this preseason:

C-A Yds Pct TD Int

Redman 9-15 97 60.0 0 1

Boller 19-39 256 48.7 2 1

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