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Questions have legitimately been raised about how effective the 33-year old version of Steve McNair will be in the Ravens’ offense. It is only a matter of time when McNair is let loose by Tennessee, either through a trade to Baltimore or through the termination of his contract. When McNair finally dons a purple and black jersey, he will be indoctrinated in an offensive scheme that is very similar to what Tennessee used to run before 2003.
The Ravens will install a run first scheme, where Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson are the focal points of the offense, while McNair and the passing game would complement this power-rushing tandem. McNair would be counted on to run a controlled passing game which emphasizes the execution of a couple of big plays per game, in addition to completing first-downs in order to dominate the time-of-possession battle. If all goes according to plan, McNair would not have to attempt more than 25 passes per game. Being more of a manager is the type of role that McNair had when the Titans went to the Super Bowl and won 13 games the year after, in the same year that the Ravens won the Super Bowl. In those years, McNair was a solid quarterback who made enough plays with his arm and his legs to help Tennessee win games, but he was not the star of the offense. Eddie George carried the Titans by grinding out yards in the fourth-quarter to seal games for the Titans.
If McNair is to have similar success in Baltimore, he will need to ride the coattails of a resurgent Baltimore rushing attack which was dormant last season. Considering that McNair has had to carry Tennessee’s passing game without the help of a reliable rush attack the last couple of seasons, one can see why he has not been as efficient as he normally is. Not to mention that with the loss of veterans like Derrick Mason and Fred Miller, McNair had to rely on a green offensive line and receiving corps to make plays for him.
That said, McNair’s numbers a year ago were still more than respectable. He posted a quarterback rating of 82.4, completed more than 60% of his passes 7 of which were over 40-yards. If Kyle Boller performed at the same level that McNair performed at last season, the Ravens could have won two or three more games…
Even with the impending arrival of McNair, Kyle Boller should not feel discouraged about his position on the depth chart. Boller may end up becoming the primary backup to McNair, but there is a great chance that he will play at some point during the season regardless of whether McNair starts or not. McNair has not started all 16 games in a season since 2002, even though he only missed two games last year and in 2003, the year that he won the MVP award. McNair will play through pain, but injuries are a way of life for Steve McNair in the NFL.
If Boller does get the chance to play because McNair can’t avoid the bite of the injury bug, he should perform well. Coming off the bench, Boller should feel less pressure to perform at a high level. Boller’s weaknesses as a quarterback stem in part from his inability to remain calm in the pocket. His state of hyper-tension leads to choppy footwork, bad mechanics and rushed decisions on the field. It’s quite possible that Boller could develop calmness in the pocket that he always lacked if he plays in a relief role as opposed to being the field general…
The Ravens brought back former backup linebacker Tim Johnson this week. Johnson served a one week stint with Baltimore back in the 2001 season before getting cut. This signing may fly under the radar screen, but it is a solid move. Johnson is a capable backup at either outside backup position, and he can contribute on the special-teams coverage units.
In fact, Johnson and Gary Stills (who signed with Baltimore nearly two months ago) will help improve coverage in the punt and kicking game. Stills is one of the best gunners in the NFL, and Johnson is also good at pursuing and crashing on returns down the field.