RAVENS ROSTER OVERVIEW & GRADES: QUARTERBACK

Battle Plans RAVENS ROSTER OVERVIEW & GRADES: QUARTERBACK

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Leading up to the start of training camp, 24×7 will preview the 2007 Baltimore Ravens position-by-position. Today we will analyze the quarterbacks.
 
This is the first time in the franchise’s history that it has stability at the most crucial position on the field.
 
Entering his second year with the team, Steve McNair has a firm grasp of the offensive system; a system that he was not able to fully absorb until after the bye-week in ‘06. While backup Kyle Boller may be a failed starter in the system, he has adjusted nicely to being the primary backup to McNair. Troy Smith is an intriguing prospect who will have every opportunity to land the third spot on the depth chart.
 
Starter(s): McNair brought a level of credibility and calmness to the huddle that the offense lacked in previous years.
 
Although some of McNair’s quickness and arm strength has clearly eroded, he is an efficient manager who understands how to protect leads. McNair also made a number of game-changing plays with his arm and his feet.
 
Given that the offense is set to expand, expect the former Titan to have more passing responsibilities. One of McNair’s biggest assets is that he has experience operating out of a predominant pass-first and a predominant run-first offense, so he shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting in whichever scheme the Ravens favor more.
 
The biggest issue for McNair remains his durability. McNair did start in all 16 regular season games last season – the first time he was able to make every start game since 2002 – but he was also knocked out of two games. Keeping the aging star upright for an entire season will remain the coaches’ biggest challenge.
 
Backups: Boller pitched in relief in the two games that McNair was unable to stay on the field for. He filled in nicely, posting a 97.0 rating against Carolina and a 112.8 rating against Cleveland.
 
Still, Boller made his share of mistakes in both games. He fumbled the ball twice and threw two interceptions, one of which occurred on a scoring drive against the Browns.
 
There is no question that he has the physical ability to be a dominant quarterback in the NFL. There are few players at the position that can hang an accurate 50-yard bomb to a streaking wideout, or rifle the ball into a small window as Boller can on a given play.
 
However, until Boller plays at a consistent level, he will not be more than a dependable backup for the franchise beyond this season.
 
Adding to Boller’s uncertain future status with the Ravens is the addition of Troy Smith to the roster. The former Heisman Trophy winner was snatched out of the fifth-round after his stock plummeted leading up to the April draft.
At the moment, Smith has every opportunity to earn a spot on the depth chart behind McNair and Boller. Unless he has a miserable showing during training camp and in the preseason, he will beat out Drew Olsen, who is the current third-string QB.
 
That said, Smith has the ability to be more than a developmental backup. Depending on how Smith progresses, he may get the chance to lead the team as a starter after McNair hangs up his cleats.
 
In order to get to that level, Smith will need to prove that he can move well within the pocket and is not just a run-and-shoot type athlete.
 
Grade: B

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens’ keys to success against each upcoming opponent.

Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the Scouts.com network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week. 

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