Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Kyle Boller is the next coming of Kordell

I've been giving Ravens QB Kyle Boller a hard time for the better part of a year (see here and here) and yesterday Len Pasquarelli finally joined the party. Yesterday he had a story about how Boller continues to struggle as he heads into his second season in the NFL. This quote pretty much sums up his sentiments in a nutshell:

Remember all those stories about Kyle Boller that preceded the 2003 draft, the tales which suggested that the then-University of California quarterback could, from his knees, rifle a football 50 yards and through the goal post at the far end of the stadium?

Well, there were times during his largely forgettable rookie campaign when Baltimore Ravens coaches and team officials might have recalled that parable and found themselves wishing Boller would try playing the position while genuflecting.
Actually, it should really be no surprise that Boller isn't the next coming of Johnny Unitas. For starters, he might have the worst receiving corp on professional football (and that includes the CFL). Just a hint, but when your most potent downfield threat is TE Todd Heap, your passing offense ain't going to scare a lot of people.

Also, based on two preseason games, the Ravens offensive line has struggled, causing Boller to hurry throws, make poor decisions, become impatient or get sacked. (from my experience, getting knocked about the head usually doesn't instill confidence in a young QB). And finally (and maybe most importantly), Boller had one good year in college. And I know all of his supporters will blame a lot of that on having a bunch of coaches cycled in and out of the University of California, but either way, he wasn't a very good college player.

If you don't believe me, just consider these college numbers:

1999 (freshman season): Appeared in ten games, starting eight contests…Completed 100 of 259 passes (38.6%) for 1303 yards and nine touchdowns, 15 INTs…Averaged 119.8 yards per game in total offense.

2000: Started every game, completing 163 of 349 passes (46.7%) for 2121 yards and 15 touchdowns, 13 INTs …Scored twice on 65 carries and averaged 188.8 yards per game in total offense.

2001: Played in nine games, completing 134 of 272 passes (49.3%) for 1741 yards and 12 touchdowns, 10 INTs…Carried 77 times for 191 yards (0.8 avg) and a score.

2002: Started every game, completing 225 of 421 passes (53.4%) for 2815 yards and 28 touchdowns 10 INTs.
Don't get me wrong, these numbers are good -- but they're not what you'd expect of a first round pick who started as a rookie (I have no idea how many INTs Boller threw in college because I couldn't find one website with that college stat -- maybe he didn't throw any).

Update: The 'burghsportsguys sent me a link with all of Bollers college stats -- including INTs. I've included them above.

I watched the Ravens two preseason games for the sole purpose of seeing exactly how Boller is coming along (as you may remember, I said basically as much after the first preseason game), and from the viewpoint of a very (very, very) biased observer, Boller looks pretty unimpressive. Of course, this is exactly what Pasquarelli eludes to in his article, but it's hard to grasp what he's talking about until you see Boller take a 3-step drop, look past his first option only to pull the ball down and run for a 4-yard gain -- five times in one half.

On the other hand, the Steelers first round pick in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger has looked a lot more poised, aware and confident during his two-game career thus far. And to be fair, I think part of Boller's problem is that his offensive line isn't giving him much time. Roethlisberger has had what seems like minutes when dropping back to pass and he's very good at avoiding the rush and creating space for himself. Now all of Roethlisberger's cool and calm demeanor might change if the defense could mount a pass rush (Thursday's game against Philly should be a good test -- provided that everyone on the Eagles isn't put on IR) and force him into making bad decisions, but as it stands, he looks a lot better than Boller after a year in the league.

Only compounding the Ravens' problems is that Jamal Lewis might not be around for every game as his continuing legal saga plays itself out. And no one in their right mind thinks Musa Smith is going to offer anything in the way of relief if Lewis is wearing pinstripes. Adding insult to injury, if Boller goes down, or is benched guess who's next on the depth chart? Kordell Stewart -- who was a woeful 2 for 8 in his last preseason game with a pick. Of all the QBs the Ravens signed, they found the only one with a worse QB-rating than Boller last season. Someone somehwere should be fired for that one.

Anyway, here's the bottom line. If Boller struggles (and he will), and J. Lewis doesn't play the entire season (I don't think he will), the Ravens will stink (I hope they will). In fact, they may stink to the point where they finish third in the division (and this prediction is based on nothing more than hopes and prayers). Or maybe they can just lose to the Browns twice -- I'll take either one at this point.