Smith and Beck's Paths Intertwine

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A heralded young quarterback is selected in the 2007 NFL Draft by a team with questions at the position. He begins his NFL career as a third-stringer, but due to injury and circumstance, is propelled to the starting lineup by the end of his rookie season. He gets a new head coach, who drafts another young signal-caller to be the future, but things still look promising entering 2008.

This is the story of Troy Smith. But ironically enough, it is also the story of new Ravens quarterback John Beck. Beck and Smith will join incumbent Ravens starter Joe Flacco this weekend at minicamps. The recent addition of Beck created an interesting subplot to the offseason. Or so it seemed.

When Beck was signed, it was reported that he would compete with Smith for the backup role.

Not so, says Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

"I don't know where all that came from," Cameron said. "The thing is, everybody's competing here."

Cameron stressed that Smith's role was not in jeopardy.

"Troy is a good football player who's going to have a tremendous role for this offense," Cameron confirmed. "The reality is, you can't have too many good quarterbacks, in case you have an injury or two."

Cameron stressed the real reason why Beck was added.

"The mindset was, 'Here's a talented guy who is a good quarterback, and adds to our depth,'" explained Cameron.  "I wouldn't say we're bringing [Beck] here to compete with Troy."

Smith and Beck come from different backgrounds, but entered the NFL in remarkably similar ways. Smith was the mobile, Heisman-winning playmaker from perennial football powerhouse Ohio State, while Beck was the more traditional passer from non-BCS Brigham Young.

But come the 2007 NFL Draft, Beck was selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins, while Cameron was the head coach. Smith was selected three rounds later by the Ravens. Both teams had veteran quarterbacks nearing the end of their careers, in Trent Green and Steve McNair respectively, and there was a chance that both young signal-callers could be groomed to be long-term solutions at the position.

Beck and Smith each saw playing time in 2007. Beck started four games to earn a 56.1 completion percentage with one touchdown and three interceptions. Smith started two games in 2007, earning a 52.6 completion percentage on two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Both teams, however, failed to live up to expectations that year. Cameron was replaced by Tony Sparano, and John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens, who promptly brought Cameron in as his offensive coordinator. The Ravens, of course, drafted Flacco in the first round in 2008, and the Dolphins drafted Michigan quarterback Chad Henne in the second that same year.

Still, their prospects for starting seemed strong in 2008. That was until the Dolphins acquired recently-released free agent Chad Pennington. Smith was also poised to become Baltimore's starter, until a serious tonsil infection sidelined him during the preseason, opening the door for Flacco.

Both the Ravens and Dolphins had miraculous comeback years in 2008. Beck, however, did not see the field. Smith did. Appearing in six games, Smith was used in the "Suggs Package" - as it was called by the media - a variation on the Wildcat offense which, incidentally, Miami was using to great success.

Smith finished the season with 82 passing yards and a touchdown. For a quarterback who had hoped to start, Smith has been gracious and supportive in his role as the backup.

"If my role is to be on the sideline doing something to help Joe and this offense, then that's what I'll do. But, if I can get in there and help a little bit, I'll do just that," Smith said.

Joining the Ravens just this week after being released by the Dolphins, Beck is still getting to know his teammates, but he was familiar with the organization upon his arrival. The Ravens scouted Beck prior the 2007 Draft, and even invited him to their facility in Owings Mills, Md. His familiarity with Cameron, the offense, as well as general manager Ozzie Newsome helped make the decision to come to Baltimore an easy one.

"I just want to come out and compete the best I can," Beck noted, hoping his two years in the NFL will prepare him for the future.

"He's got a lot of the things we're looking for," Cameron said of his new quarterback. "He's extremely tough. He's very bright. He's quick with the football. He just needs to get comfortable with the guys around here, and continue to develop like Troy and Joe."

Cameron is comfortable with all three of his quarterbacks, and is eager to see them all on the field together this weekend in minicamps.

Regardless of how the competition shapes up, he did confirm one thing about the offense: "The Suggs package is here to stay." 

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