Want an answer to QB question? Boller not ready

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER - Maybe now we can kill this quarterback controversy until later in the season.

Put a lid on it, padlock it and hide it under the bed for a while.

As much as we have hyped this controversy, as much as Ravens coach Brian Billick wants rookie quarterback Kyle Boller in the starting lineup, as much as ownership wants to see him on the field because it has invested so much money, the kid isn't ready.

So, let's nip it. Please, no more.

There are many more pressing issues for this team than finding a replacement for incumbent quarterback Chris Redman, like establishing a running game, finding a defensive lineman who can pressure the quarterback, getting a return specialist, and finding a competent right side of the offensive line.

Wait a minute, there's one more thing: Ravens defensive backs need to go through tackling drills this week.

It all sounds harsh, but that's what preseason is about, finding weaknesses and correcting them. And last night against the Washington Redskins, most of the Ravens' weaknesses were exposed, including Boller.

"I was a little too excited at first," Boller said. "I was trying to guide the ball and made some mistakes. I was more comfortable after a couple of series and settled down. The game slowed and got easier as it went on."

Boller may be the quarterback of the future, but he shouldn't be the starting quarterback in the regular-season opener when the Ravens go into Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's understandable why Billick wanted to give Boller a shot with the first team for the entire first half last night. Expose him to a bit of the big time. Let him get out some jitters. You could easily see that Boller, a first-round pick out of California in April, was nervous playing at FedEx Field.

But imagine what it's going to be like Sept. 7 on the road in Pittsburgh. The place is going to be filled and rocking. All those Steelers crazies will be out waving those stupid yellow towels. The intensity will be turned up several levels from the preseason, and Boller will be going against one of the best defenses in the league in hiding blitzes.

Don't do it to the kid, Brian. He may be traumatized for life, and may never recover.

Boller really looked like a rookie last night. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 101 yards playing the first two quarters, but most of those came on the Ravens' last possession of the half when the Redskins were giving the Ravens underneath freebies.

As a matter of fact, the Ravens had a grand total of 16 yards of total offense with 11:54 left in the half. Boller threw one short swing pass in the dirt, and two others were tipped at the line of scrimmage. On a third-and-five from the Ravens' 46 with 6:06 left in the half, the Ravens ran tight end Todd Heap on an out, a pattern that should have shown off Boller's arm strength.

Instead, he threw a soft pass that was almost picked off. Boller never gained control of the tempo of the game. Often, he stared down his primary receivers and never looked off.

They call that tunnel vision, the same problem Redman had last year.

Maybe Boller was nervous. Maybe he was pressing. But one thing's for sure, Redman needs to be the starting quarterback for this team.

The little things he does will make a difference in wins and losses for the Ravens. Because if this team needs a strong arm and passing attack to win games, it is in trouble.

The Ravens don't have the talent or scheme to get it done. If this is indeed a West Coast offense, which is predicated on short passes, then why do you need such a big gun anyway?

"We didn't establish the run in the first half," Billick said. "I'm not happy with the performance - it's the third preseason game. We just had nothing: no passion, no focus, no intensity, no physicality, no responding to adversity. We just had nothing. It was a totally wasted opportunity to evaluate what we can do individually and collectively."

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said: "We had a good drive there at the end of the half and need to build off that. We had too many three and outs in the first quarter. We didn't run the ball the way we wanted."

That's more troubling than Redman vs. Boller. The forte of this offense was expected to be the running game, and the Ravens have yet to get it cranking. Halfback Jamal Lewis has nowhere to run. The good news is that right offensive tackle Orlando Brown was solid in his debut last night, but the Ravens still need to improve play at right guard.

If this team falls behind and has to play catch-up, then the Ravens are in trouble because, with the exception of left tackle Jonathan Ogden, they don't pass-block extremely well.

But the Ravens' defensive line had problems last night, too. The group plays with passion and hustle, but no one up front puts consistent pressure on the quarterback.

There was enough blame, however, to go around. Cornerbacks Corey Fuller and Chris McAlister and safeties Ed Reed and Gary Baxter were in position to put some serious hits on the Redskins, but they weren't aggressive.

The Ravens entered the preseason concerned about the fumbling problem of return specialist Lamont Brightful, and he did nothing to ease that concern by fumbling the first punt of the game, which led to a Washington field goal for a 3-0 lead with 10:02 remaining in the first quarter.

The fumble set the tone for the Ravens' poor showing. The Ravens were so bad that Billick admitted he couldn't get a true evaluation of either quarterback.

The only other concern for the Ravens was Billick keeping Redman in too long working with the second and third team in the second half. You didn't want him getting hurt, but Billick had him operating behind linemen such as Anthony Pashos and Jason Thomas. It was disrespectful. No other team in the league has its starting quarterback playing in garbage time in preseason.

Whether the Ravens like it or not, Redman (17 of 28 for 163 yards in the second half) is the best shot they have for winning with this ugly offense that has been unproductive for four years going on five.

Redman may not be tall, or have a strong arm or a big contract, but he's better than Boller right now.

So, let the experiment end.

This quarterback controversy shouldn't come up again until later in the season.

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