Troy Smith has been named the Ravens' starting quarterback over Kyle Boller for Saturday's preseason game against the Rams in St. Louis, spurring speculation that the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner will start the regular-season opener.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh reiterated that no decision has been made beyond the third preseason game and said yesterday's announcement means only that the team wants to take an extended look at Smith.
There is a possibility that Smith could play as long as three quarters Saturday.
"We need to find out more about Troy Smith," Harbaugh said. "He needs reps with the [starters]. He needs them against a defense in a third preseason game where they're game-planning him a little bit. We'll see how he does."
Harbaugh's decision was a difficult one because neither Smith nor Boller has taken control of this quarterback race. Both have struggled to move the offense and score points.
But the Ravens seem intrigued by Smith's athleticism, which could be an asset behind a young offensive line. Still, Smith is unproven because he lacks experience.
As a rookie fifth-round pick, Smith started two games late last season, completing 32 of 60 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.
In two preseason games, Smith has completed eight of 17 passes (47.1 percent) for 99 yards, throwing no touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating is 41.1, the lowest among Ravens quarterbacks this preseason.
Despite below-average statistics, Smith said he was not surprised when he was named the starter for the third preseason game, which is typically the one in which the starters play the most.
"I say that because I am confident in what I can do and what I will do," Smith said. "I'm very, very thankful for the situation and opportunity and grateful for everything that's to come."
The Ravens started Boller in the first preseason game based on his experience.
It seems that track record worked against him this time.
"The thinking is Kyle has had 42 starts, and we have a good idea of what he is and what he's been," Harbaugh said. "He's done a nice job in camp."
This preseason, Boller has connected on 70.4 percent of his throws (19 of 27), passing for 142 yards.
But he has committed a team-worst three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble lost). It's these types of mistakes that have dogged Boller since being a first-round pick in 2003.
Because Smith could play three quarters and rookie Joe Flacco could close out the fourth, Harbaugh said he is unsure whether Boller will even play Saturday, which could be seen as a setback for him in the quarterback competition.
Boller did not enter the locker room during the open media period and was not made available for comment.
"Right now, I would suspect that Troy is going to get every opportunity to play a lot," Harbaugh said. "But if we're getting a feel for something and we want to try something else, we always have the option to do that in a preseason game. But our plan is for Troy to play with the [starters], and we might bring Joe in at the end."
One of Smith's strengths is his leadership ability, which has earned respect from veteran players.
The final decision on the starting quarterback will be between Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but Harbaugh said he is willing to listen to the players.
"It depends on who the guys are," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, you put a little more weight on certain guys over other guys who have been around. The door is open. If they have a thought or insight, we'd love to hear it."
Players such as wide receiver Derrick Mason were not taken aback by the announcement that Smith would start.
"[Smith] played well in the last game, [and] he's been playing well all camp, as well as the other guys," Mason said. "For him to get the nod for this game, it's not surprising."
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