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Boller poised to be named starter today

Ravens coach Brian Billick will announce Kyle Boller as his starting quarterback for the season opener in Pittsburgh at a news conference today, sources within the organization said.

Coming off an outstanding performance in the preseason finale, Boller distanced himself from Chris Redman, going 7-for-9 for 99 yards and two touchdowns in a little more than a quarter's work.

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The first-round draft pick will become the fifth different starting quarterback in Billick's five seasons here (following Scott Mitchell, Tony Banks, Elvis Grbac and Redman). Redman will return to being the backup, and Anthony Wright will stay at No. 3, the source added.

When asked about the quarterback competition yesterday, Billick declined to name a winner and said, "We will resolve this Saturday."

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The question mark now moves from the starting quarterback to depth at receiver.

Randy Hymes, who was considered the team's No. 4 wide-out, ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Thursday's 30-24 preseason loss to the New York Giants and will miss the entire regular season.

With starter Frank Sanders (dislocated toes) still not fully recovered, the Ravens are left with three healthy receivers who have NFL experience: Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Ron Johnson. Sanders, though, is expected to be ready for the opener on Sept. 7.

To address the loss of Hymes, the Ravens have three options: Stick with four receivers, since tight end Todd Heap can split out wide; increase the role of Morgan State's Marc Lester; or pick up a receiver.

As they sort out their situation at the position, the Ravens are set at quarterback for this season and perhaps for seasons to come. At 22, Boller will be the youngest - and first rookie - to start at quarterback in Ravens history.

Team officials have never hid their excitement over Boller since trading up - using this year's second-round choice and next year's first-round pick - to draft him 19th overall in April.

According to team sources, here are some reasons Boller beat out Redman:

He represents the best chance to win now.

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Boller has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to quickly absorb the system and stay within the parameters of a controlled game plan. Over the past two preseason games, he has effectively dumped the ball off and connected on short hitches rather than force longer throws into coverage.

If he continues to avoid rookie mistakes, the team can rely on its much-hyped defense to decide games.

He has proved to have better skills than Redman.

Besides having a stronger arm, Boller is more athletic in the pocket and has better vision. His charismatic form of leadership also sets him apart.

When the Ravens need to make a big play, they're more confident with Boller, since he can create something out of nothing with his arm and mobility.

He sets the team up for the future.

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Making a serious Super Bowl run is probably a year away. Under that reasoning, the team would like for Boller to get the growing pains out of his system this season rather than wait until next season's potential title bid.

Boller is among a core of players under 30 (others are linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, Heap, running back Jamal Lewis and safety Ed Reed) whom the Ravens have locked up contractually and believe could make them perennial playoff contenders.

Next for Ravens

Matchup:Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers in season opener for both teams

Site:Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

When:Sept. 7, 1 p.m.

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TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Series:Steelers lead 11-4

Preseason rewind

A recap of the Ravens' 30-24 loss to the New York Giants on Thursday:

Thumbs up:Kyle Boller completed seven of his last eight passes for 99 yards. The rookie's only incompletion in that stretch came when he wisely threw the ball away in the red zone rather than risk an interception. ... The starting defense didn't allow a first down in three series and allowed 12 yards. ... Jamal Lewis, who had averaged 2.7 yards in the first three preseason games, gained 38 yards on six carries. ... After fumbling a fair catch last week, return specialist Lamont Brightful averaged 17.5 yards in bringing back two punts. ... Receiver Marcus Robinson finally surfaced in the preseason with three catches for 20 yards and a touchdown. ... In an effort to land one of the final roster spots, defensive end Joe Salave'a had two tackles, one sack and one batted pass.

Thumbs down:Backup running back Chester Taylor accounted for two fumbles, mishandling a kickoff and coughing up the ball on a carry. ... Special teams were a problem. They turned the ball over three times and had a punt partially blocked. ... Although he had poor pass protection and a couple of drops by receivers, backup quarterback Chris Redman misfired on his last five passes. ... The Ravens were penalized nine times for 64 yards.

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Quote to note:"We did what Coach challenged us to come out and do. We gave him exactly what he wanted." Safety Ed Reed on the starting defense forcing three-and-out on all three of its drives.

Stat to watch:13. Ravens' turnovers in four preseason games.

Countdown to season opener:7 days.

- Jamison Hensley


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