In the coming weeks, BaltimoreRavens.com will offer previews of each position, focusing on who will be in the thick of the competition come training camp. Today, the quarterbacks take the spotlight.
With Steve McNair's sudden retirement in April, the race for the Ravens' starting quarterback position is a three-way sprint between Troy Smith, Kyle Boller and rookie Joe Flacco.
And while Smith took most of the reps with the first team as Organized Team Activities (OTAs) wound down this summer, that race could get tighter with some solid performances in training camp by the other two contenders.
New head coach John Harbaugh maintains that the coaching staff will wait until all quarterbacks hit the field in Westminster, Md., July 22 before officially slotting the depth chart. Until then, tireless instruction from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson laid a foundation for their pupils to build upon.
"You learn something from all these guys," said Cameron, who is known for developing young signal-callers. "Hopefully they enjoy it. Getting to coach them, with Hue Jackson, couldn't be more fun, because they can teach you so much. Not so much by what they say, but how they perform. And then obviously you try to impart whatever you can to them."
All three have positives they can bring to the gridiron. Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner that was a fifth-round pick in 2007, has shown poise in the huddle and leadership in the locker room. Lately, mistakes have been rare for the former Ohio State Buckeye.
Boller has the experience of 42 career starts over a five-year career, as opposed to Flacco, a first-rounder out of Division I-AA Delaware.
But, Flacco's size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), cannon arm and stoic calm under pressure make him an intriguing prospect.
The Ravens also brought in Catawba's Brad Roach as an undrafted free agent to further split up the workload.
Harbaugh and Co. are looking forward to a battle at the top of the quarterback chain, which may be why he's got them reporting to training camp two days before veterans.
Here is a breakdown of the quarterbacks on the Ravens' roster:
2007:It was a modest year for Smith, but he made the most of his limited playing time. He saw action in four games, when both McNair and Boller were sidelined because of injuries. He completed 40 of 76 attempts for 452 yards and two touchdowns. Even better, Smith did not toss an interception and led the Ravens to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season finale.
Forecast:After sharing first-team time with Boller for most of the early camps, Smith clearly logged the most minutes with starters by the end of OTAs. He will have to maintain his high performance to keep that spot.
2007:Boller started eight of 12 games played and finished the campaign with a career-high 61.1 completion percentage (168-of-275), adding nine scores and 10 interceptions. A concussion in Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins shelved him for the last two games.
Forecast:Whatever Boller's status, he will be a crucial part of the offense. He can be instrumental in helping Smith continue to develop and showing Flacco how to prepare like a professional. Boller said that he will continue the fight to reclaim his starting spot, and his dedication to the Ravens' offseason conditioning program shows he means it.
2007:Flacco lit up the Colonial Athletic Association, earning first-team All-Conference honors after leading his team to an 11-4 record and a berth in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game. He started all 15 games and connected on 331 of 521 passes (63.5 percent) for a school-record 4,263 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five picks.
Forecast:It's no secret that the Ravens spent the 18th-overall selection on Flacco to make him their quarterback of the future. He has all the tools coaches love, and he seemed to pick up the offense quickly after missing many early practices because Delaware didn't end its semester until May 31. He may not start on Day 1, but it could happen before the season is over.
2007:As a senior, Roach was named the South Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Year after leading Catawba to an 11-2 record. He threw for a whopping 3,322 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Forecast:Roach will have a tough time trying to stay on the roster. Harbaugh said that it would be difficult to keep four quarterbacks, with one taking a practice squad spot. Still, his 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame could make him an asset to many teams. He'll have to play lights out in the preseason contests to showcase his talents.