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Is Boller starting to gain an edge?

In tonight's "Battle of the Beltways," the Ravens' quarterback competition likely will take a different turn.

Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller is expected to be in the driver's seat as the Ravens (1-1) take a short trip down the interstate for a preseason game against the Washington Redskins (0-2) at FedEx Field in Landover.

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Although coach Brian Billick has declined to announce his quarterback rotation, it's a near certainty that the 19th overall pick in the draft will make his first NFL start. That leads to the bigger questions: Is starting Boller an attempt to keep the competition fair, or is this the dawning of a new quarterback era?

There's increasing speculation around the league that Boller could win the starting job - and surpass preseason favorite Chris Redman - if he finishes the preseason with a flourish.

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"If I get the opportunity to work with the starters, hopefully I'll take advantage of it," Boller said. "I just want to go out there and stay relaxed and continue to go through what I've been practicing, which is being smooth. I don't want to press.

"Your goal as a player is to play. I want to be out there on the field. If I get a chance to go out there and start, then that's going to be awesome."

Boller, for one, isn't ready to declare himself a starter yet. The rookie out of California knows he needs to have a better handle on reading blitzes and calling out the right blocking schemes.

"I think I'm pretty close, but I still have to get my head in that playbook and watch a lot of tape," Boller said. "You can't take shots that you don't deserve and you can't get sacks. If I don't know the protection, it's not fair to the offensive line if I get sacked. Until I get to that point where I know everything, I probably shouldn't be in there. But I'm getting there."

Neither Boller nor Redman has distinguished himself in the first two preseason games.

Redman has received both starts, completing nine of 15 passes (60 percent) for 97 yards and a quarterback rating of 51.3. Boller has received most of the playing time, connecting on 19 of 39 throws (48.7 percent) for 256 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 76.4.

According to published reports, the coaches agree they need to see Boller work with the starters for a significant period in order to have a balanced competition.

"Sure it affects me because I lose a lot of reps in practice," said Redman, who has exclusively worked with the starters all offseason and training camp. "But other than that, mentally it can't affect me because I have to stay ready to go. They haven't said a word about rotation. The only time I've heard about it has been in the media."

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Entering second tonight may not be a terrible scenario. Redman has played two quarters in two starts while Boller has played four quarters in two relief appearances.

"I've got to look at it as optimistic as possible," Redman said. "It is a competition and I want to compete and throw as many balls as I can. Yeah, if I get more time, it would be awesome."

There has been a report that time might be running out on Redman. According to Sports Illustrated's Web site, the Ravens are planning to let Redman walk after this season as an unrestricted free agent and make Anthony Wright the long-term backup behind Boller.

Billick denied the report.

"Chris Redman is in a battle for the starting quarterback position for the Ravens," Billick said. "It's been a good competition between Kyle and him. If Chris indeed becomes the starting quarterback, it's not our intention to make him the starting quarterback and just toss him aside at the end of the year. Those decisions have not been made by any stretch of the imagination."

Billick, though, has an idea of how to handle Boller.

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"There are a million scenarios, and I have done the homework, trust me," Billick said. "I've looked at every rookie quarterback that has started in this league [with six starts or more] since 1960. I've talked to a number of people, whose counsel I value, about this process. The options are limitless on what you should do and what you shouldn't do."

The Ravens' defense, meanwhile, simply wants to continue its momentum.

The league's top defense of the preseason has allowed just one touchdown in 27 series. Running backs are averaging just 2.7 yards a carry against the Ravens, and quarterbacks have completed 47 percent of their passes and thrown three interceptions.

The Ravens' next challenge is the Redskins, who are coached by pass-happy Steve Spurrier.

"We want to build off of this," free safety Gary Baxter said. "We want to play fast and aggressive to the football. Each week, we want to turn it up. We've got our goal to be the best defense in the league."

Ravens tonight

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Preseason opponent: Washington Redskins

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

Time: 8

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)


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