-- Kyle Boller will return as the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback on Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Coach Brian Billick announced on Monday. Boller has not played since hyperextending his right big toe in the third quarter of the season-opening loss to Indianapolis.
"We have said all along that at the appropriate time, when he is healthy, we would go back to him as our starting quarterback," Billick said during his weekly news conference. "We're committed to his development, we're committed to him being the guy. We have no reason to think that Kyle Boller isn't the quarterback that we all thought he could be. It's his opportunity, certainly because of where we are now."
The Ravens are 2-6 and in last place in the AFC North.
Prior to his injury, Boller was never viewed as the savior of the Ravens' offense by Baltimore fans; the home crowd cheered when he was injured in the season opener and backup Anthony Wright took over. But the Ravens' offense has regressed under Wright, and the unit was booed several times during its 21-9 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday.
Wright, who led the Ravens to the playoffs after Boller went down with a leg injury in 2003, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns. He also has thrown nine interceptions and has been sacked 19 times. Billick rated Wright's performance as "solid" and added, "This is not a factor of, 'Anthony deserves not to be the starting quarterback.' "
Baltimore's offense struggled to score points under Wright, who will serve as the backup against Jacksonville (5-3). The Ravens are the only team in the league that has yet to score 100 points, and they've managed seven touchdowns in eight games.
Baltimore didn't score a touchdown against Cincinnati, the second time this season it has failed to reach the end zone, despite making four trips inside the 20-yard line. For the season, the Ravens have converted 7 of 22 red zone opportunities (31.8 percent). In 2004, they scored on 50 percent of their red zone opportunities (20 of 40).
"I want to go out there, and obviously, the biggest thing that we've been struggling with is the red zone," Boller said. "Hopefully I can go out there and do my best to try and help our offense put points on the board. Just going out there, being efficient."
Boller said he is 100 percent healthy, and Billick said he knew Boller was ready to go when he saw him running routes for the other quarterbacks at practice late last week. Boller served as the scout-team quarterback for the past two weeks, and he was in uniform on Sunday against the Bengals (though he was designated as the third quarterback).
"I think last week helped me get back into it," said Boller, who will wear a special insert in his shoe to protect the toe. "My arm feels great throwing right now. I've stayed in all the meetings since I've been hurt, so I don't think I've missed that part of it. I'm going to be ready to go."
This is a critical season for Boller, the 19th overall pick in the 2003 draft.
His first two years as a starter were uneven at best: He completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 3,819 yards with 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He showed signs of improvement during the latter part of the 2004 season, and during the offseason the organization reaffirmed its commitment to him.
The Ravens hired Jim Fassel, who spent last season as Boller's tutor, as the offensive coordinator and brought in Rick Neuheisel, who has known Boller since high school, as the quarterbacks coach. They adapted the offense to suit Boller's skills, and Boller spent most of his offseason at the team's training facility, studying film and working with his wide receivers. Against Indianapolis in the season opener, Boller completed 65.2 percent of his passes (15 of 23) for 141 yards and one interception.
"There's no reason not to put him in, let him finish the second half of the season and see what kind of run we can get on, and continue to have that full resume that allows us -- not only with Kyle but any number of players -- to know exactly what decisions need to be made in the offseason," Billick said. "We're fortunate that we have a full half of a season -- and hopefully he can stay healthy -- to add onto that and give us the information we need going forward."
Ravens Note: Billick said the team will update the status of safety Ed Reed (ankle) and linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) later in the week. Reed's injury, which has caused him to miss three games, "is progressing very well," according to Billick. Lewis, who has been sidelined for two games, is not expected to return for at least another week.