Blog & Tackle: Final exam time for Troy Smith

August 20, 2008 | Chris Pika

We all know that Troy Smith will get the start in the third preseason game for the Ravens against the Rams on Saturday. The third week for every NFL team is the most important because the starters play the most and teams usually game plan against their opponent this week.

I’ve said all along that the Ravens’ starting quarterback — whoever it will be — will come from a process that started the minute the new coaching staff came on board. Offseason workouts, classroom work, installation of the new offense, organized team activities (OTAs), minicamps, training camp and preseason would all figure into the final decision. A lot of it is done outside the eyes of the public and media.

The offense against the Rams will still be mostly vanilla. The actual offensive game plan for the Cincinnati opener started to be installed the minute the team finished public training camp practice sessions. The Bengals are the single focus in meetings and at practice, not the Rams.

The game plan work in terms of St. Louis is more for the coaching staff than the players. It’s a dry run for the regular season to make sure the group process and individual responsibilities of the coaches are set, especially with so many who have not worked together. It’s something they will do 16 times on Mondays and Tuesdays each week before the players get the game plan on Wednesdays.

With all of the work put in by each of the three QBs in the starter derby since the new staff came on board in January, maybe the winner is still too close to call, or maybe John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and Ozzie Newsome are leaning toward Smith, and they need one more performance to validate their decision.

So, it’s a final exam for Smith, and it looks from here that all he has to do is get a grade of “C” or better. If the grade is “D” or worse, then Kyle Boller is the man in the huddle on Sept. 7.

Boller, like the other two quarterbacks, has done everything asked to win the job, but is in the uncomfortable position of knowing that the better the first-team offense does on Saturday night, the worse his personal job prospects become. He has to hope Smith’s exam is too tough to pass and that the Ravens don’t grade on a curve.