-- No Baltimore Ravens player is scrutinized quite like Kyle Boller. Any discussion of the Ravens' postseason potential comes with the caveat that much will depend on the development of the third-year quarterback, which is why every poorly thrown pass or flawed decision is analyzed over and again. Boller did not play well in the Ravens' 20-14 loss to Philadelphia last Saturday and was booed by the home crowd -- and it was only the second week of the preseason.
"It's definitely not a panic mode," said Boller, who has thrown three interceptions in two preseason games. "It may seem like a panic mode, but it's only our second preseason game. I think if you start forcing things and pressing and trying too hard like you think that you should, more bad things are going to happen.
"The way I take it is, I'll just prepare more this week, put in the hard work and go out and execute. Good things will happen. I'm not going to go out and be timid and not throw balls because I'm scared to throw interceptions because people are going to boo me. That's not how I play my game."
When the Ravens face the New Orleans Saints on Friday night in a preseason game at the Louisiana Superdome, Boller again won't have running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Todd Heap, who are working their way back into game shape. He will have veteran Derrick Mason (five catches for 34 yards) and rookie Mark Clayton (three catches for 33 yards), two wide receivers who were brought in to help upgrade a passing attack that ranked 31st in the NFL last year.
Boller has led the Ravens (0-2) to one touchdown in three quarters of preseason play. He directed a 10-play, 49-yard drive late in the second quarter against the Eagles, completing all five passes he attempted, including a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox. But that success was lost in what transpired in the first 18 minutes of the game: two interceptions and a fumble by Boller that helped Philadelphia take a 17-0 lead.
"This is a new offense for all of us. Just as I'm learning, Kyle's learning," Mason said. "Everybody is learning on the run. You just have to be patient. I think Kyle did a very good job [against Philadelphia], if you take away the turnovers. . . . He's not doing things on purpose, he's trying to make plays. In the midst of trying to make plays, things happen."
Jim Fassel has preached offensive efficiency since taking over as offensive coordinator in the offseason. During the Ravens' media clinic in May, Fassel emphasized three areas in particular: protecting the quarterback, improving Boller's completion percentage, and minimizing turnovers.
So far, Boller has completed 62.5 percent of his passes (15 for 24), which is close to Fassel's goal of 63 to 64 percent (Boller's career completion percentage is 54.4 percent). The Ravens' offense has committed six turnovers (four interceptions and two fumbles) in two games; Boller has been responsible for four of them.
"What we're practicing on in the preseason is making all of our turnovers now so we don't have any in the regular season," Fassel joked. "It's the law of averages. You're going to have X amount, so we're trying to get rid of them now.
"They drive me crazy."
Boller is expected to play into the third quarter Friday, marking his most extensive time in the preseason. Starters typically play only one quarter in the final preseason game, so this is Boller's last real chance to work out the kinks before the Sept. 11 season opener.
"It's tough, but you know, you've got to turn those boos into cheers," Boller said. "I have another opportunity to use this preseason game to go out there and make our offense be productive. Hopefully when we come back here next week, there will be cheers instead of boos."
Ravens Notes: Lewis won't play because of a bone spur in his left foot, an injury that is unrelated to the offseason surgery he underwent on his right ankle, according to Coach Brian Billick. The injury is not considered to be serious, and Lewis is expected to be ready for the regular season opener against Indianapolis.
"I'll touch the field when Jamal Lewis is ready," Lewis said Tuesday. "I guarantee you I'll be out there Sept. 11."
Back-up Chester Taylor, who has rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries, will make his third start of the preseason in Lewis's place
Linebacker Adalius Thomas (knee) practiced this week but will be a game-time decision. Fullback Alan Ricard (calf) could also play for the first time this preseason. Cornerback Samari Rolle (knee) and guard Edwin Mulitalo, whose father died this week, will not play.