The biggest question around town these past few weeks of training camp has been, “Who will be the starting quarterback for the Ravens this season?”
And that’s really just shorthand for this: “Is there any hope that one guy will step up and the team isn’t going to stink this year?”
I’d like to believe that one will affect the other but I think the most important question for the team’s competitive prospects might be about who will be on the offensive line giving Troy Smith or Kyle Boller or even Joe Flacco proper protection? And who will be running the ball if Willis McGahee can’t start the engine at running back? And will the old Todd Heap suddenly appear and catch 60 balls this year, giving opposing defenses mismatches in the secondary on virtually every play?
And on the defense’s age, injuries and depth have suddenly popped up in Ray Lewis’ contract “walk” year. Will we even see the actual starters all on the field at once?
So many questions and so few answers thus far in the preseason.
The Ravens play their third preseason game tomorrow night against the woebegone St. Louis Rams in the Gateway City and this is the generally the game where teams rev it up a notch and have their starters play past halftime to get them in game shape for the real opener, which comes on Sept. 7 at home against Cinncinati for the purple. Next Thursday’s yawnfest and final tune up at M&T Bank against Atlanta might be made a tad bit more interesting if head coach John Harbaugh decides to run first-round rookie “Bazooka” Joe Flacco out under center to start the contest.
But the main debate for the fans always comes down to wins and losses (and for some, who to take on their fantasy squad, of course). The Ravens organization is bristling that many local media members (and most of the national press corps) is picking the Ravens to be somewhere between not good and awful. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone outside of a Ravens Roost who thinks the team can win eight games. But in the building in Owings Mills, as expected, hopes are high and expectations are now pinned on the arms (and hopefully not so much on the legs) of the Ohio State Heisman star, Troy Smith, who has looked less than sensational running for his life the past two weeks. It’s hard to candy coat 3-for-5 for 25 yards and an interception.
The confident Smith will get a great opportunity to win – or maybe even lose – the starting job tomorrow night against the Rams. Boller, who didn’t look awful two weeks ago with the first team against the Patriots, is waiting in the wings.
I have a sick feeling that this might become a weekly theme for Harbaugh. “Who’s starting at QB this week?”
And if that indeed becomes a season-long question, we already know the answer to the other question about what their record will be. Teams that are winning never have to ask that question, right?