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Smith Has Up-And-Down Start


PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

If this was indeed Troy Smith's final game as a Raven, it was fairly representative of his time in Baltimore.

At times, Smith showed signs that he could be a starting quarterback, at least someday on some team. At other times, Smith displayed why he was battling for a job Thursday night.

Taking all the snaps versus the Rams in Baltimore's fourth and final preseason game, Smith went 18-of-38 for a career-high 237 yards. He ran for two touchdowns, threw two interceptions and walked out of Edward Jones Dome with a 45.6 quarterback rating.

Whether Smith's performance will be convincing enough for the Ravens to use a roster spot on a third quarterback will be determined Saturday. It's difficult to know whether Smith helped or hurt his cause.

"Troy competed out there," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought he made some plays. I'm sure there are a few plays he'd want back, but I thought he competed, and he showed why he's the kind of guy he is. He gets after it. You're never out of it when Troy's in there, and I was proud of him."

If the Ravens are going to keep Smith around, his primary use this season would likely lie in his legs, considering he's got Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger ahead of him. On that front, Smith excelled. He rushed a team-high seven times for 56 yards, including an 18-yard long, and two touchdowns. Smith's versatility would add another wrinkle to the Ravens' offense.

However, Smith occasionally held onto the ball too long or opted to run too soon. That could be partly because he was behind a patchwork offensive line that left him absorbing several huge hits, Harbaugh said.

"Troy knows he can make plays with his feet, so sometimes he relies on that," Harbaugh said. "He'll look at the tape and say 'I could've hung in there and thrown it here,' but other times he couldn't. So I think it was tough circumstances."

Smith wasn't as effective inside the pocket as he was out of it. Facing many of St. Louis' defensive starters, Baltimore managed just 80 yards of offense in the first half. Smith didn't seem to be on the same page with his receivers for much of the night. He lacked finesse on several throws, especially on short slants over the middle.

Smith did make some nice passes, particularly during a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. For example, given more time to work out of the shotgun, he whipped a side-armed pass to David Reed over the middle for 22 yards. He went 5-for-7 for 56 yards on the drive.

His final drive embodied Smith's ups and downs. Trailing by six points, Smith got the Ravens to the Rams' 35-yard line with more than a minute on just two passes. But he didn't get rid of the ball soon enough on the next two plays, resulting in a combined 20-yard loss and essentially sealing the Ravens' loss.

"It was a battle," Smith said. "Being the last preseason game, being in there with those guys, those guys are special to me. We battled all the way through, as you can see. We came up a little bit short, but that's just the way it is."

Two years ago, Smith was on the cusp of winning Baltimore's starting quarterback job as the team headed to St. Louis. Now Saturday's decision will determine his fate.

Asked whether he had done enough to remain with the team, Smith said there's no doubt he has.

"I think what we have here is tremendously special," Smith said. "I think it can't be matched anywhere because we have been through the tough times and we have been through some great times too. This team is tremendously talented and we got a chance to do some special things.

"I'm leaving this stadium with my head held high and I'm okay."

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