We all know that the Ravens staring quarterback this season will be Steve McNair, but competition looms for the third string spot. With Kyle Boller entering the final year of his contract, and perhaps his final year with the Ravens as well, the main focus of training camp this year will be who ends up in that number three slot. It should be interesting to say the least.
There will be three candidates vying for a roster spot as the third string QB, as I believe the Ravens will go back to carrying three quarterbacks on their roster. They have to. With the likelihood of Boller leaving after this season the Ravens can't afford to put their future back up on the practice squad, for fear that he'll be plucked away as Derek Anderson was. I don't see as they have any other choice.
Each of the three candidates, Troy Smith, Drew Olson, and Cullen Finnerty all have something to prove. Smith wants to show everyone that his height, (6 ft.) won't affect his ability to become a solid starter in the NFL. Olson has been perfecting his craft with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, and feels he has improved significantly. Finnerty wants to prove that despite not being drafted, after having the best quarterback rating of any college quarterback last season, he can find a way to do what he does best, win.
Just as the Ravens have a talented group of young offensive linemen competing for a spot on the team (a first), they have the same situation at the QB position (another first). These are two hugely positive indicators that the Ravens offense of the future may well challenge their vaunted defense.
A rundown on each of the competing QB's
Drew Olson, 23 yr. old, 6'2", 222 lbs.
Olson had a stellar college career with UCLA, where he broke many of the teams passing records. Olson ended his career at UCLA 2nd on the UCLA all-time passing yardage list (8,532), completions (664) and TDs (67).
As of this moment in NFL Europa, Olson is the 4th leading passer of the 6 teams, with a 58.6 Cmp%, 1080 yards passing, 8 TD's, and 7 Int's. , all of which adds up to a 76.0 passer rating. He's also rushed 16 times for 43 yards, including a long rush of 12 yards, and one TD.
While his numbers may not sound Earth shattering, the experience he's gaining is invaluable. While NFL Europe isn't the NFL, it's a tougher level than college, and that will pay dividends for Olson when the Ravens put their young guns to the test this Summer.
Troy Smith, 22 yr. old, 6'0'', 225 lbs.
Smith was a leader at Ohio State, and that character asset is what led him to win the Heisman Trophy. In his 3 games against Ohio State rival Michigan, Smith had a total of 1,151 yards of total offense, two rushing touchdowns, and seven passing touchdowns. Last season he was voted as the Buckeyes MVP, and Offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl.
Despite winning the Heisman Trophy, Smith saw his draft stock drop considerably after the 41-14 loss to Florida in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. That loss, coupled with his lack of ideal height, led to him lasting until the 5th round, where the Ravens figured he had too much value to pass up on.
Smith is determined to prove to the other 31 teams in the league that they were wrong for passing on him. He has a degree of cockiness, without being arrogant, an attitude that will make him hard to beat.
Cullen Finnerty, 24 yr. old, 6'2", 223 lbs.
After redshirting at the University of Toledo in 2001, Finnerty transferred to Grand Valley State University the following year. Here Finnerty would flourish. He went on to a 51-4 record (51 wins being the most in NCAA history) 10,905 passing, and 2,383 rushing. Finnerty threw for 110 TDs and ran for 31 TDs.
While the numbers are impressive one has to remember that Grand Valley State is a Division II school. In my opinion that only goes to show that Finnerty had a talent level well above Division II.
In High School Finnerty threw for 1,954 yards and rushed for 636 yards, and even kicked 3 field goals. This kid will be the Dark Horse in training camp, and will have to really turn some heads early to get a real shot at competing with Olson and Smith. However, this kid is a true football player, and may well turn out to be the best of the three.
This is really going to be fun to watch this Summer, I can't wait to see how it all plays out.
(Sorry for not posting more often, working 11-12 hr. physical days has me a bit drained, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Either that, or it's the truck that's about to run me over.)