Ravens top five position battles to watch for in training camp: Backup Quarterback edition
The Baltimore Ravens are among the teams with most continuity in the entire league with the immense amount of carryover on both the roster and the coaching staff from last year’s squad that finished with a franchise-record 14-2 record in the regular season. They will be returning nearly all of their starters on offense and defense from 2019, yet there will be a handful of starting spots and key roles up for grabs in training camp that is set to being at the end of the month.
With the offseason having been condensed by the COVID-19 pandemic, veteran players with a year or more of experience in the Baltimore’s system or the league, in general, might have the early advantage over some of the rookies that they will be competing against.
However, several Ravens coaches have been raving about the incredible metal aptitude of their rookies both drafted and undrafted in virtual meetings and can’t wait to get them on the field so nobody should be counted out at this point and there could be some first-year players that close the gap and pull ahead quicker than anticipated even given the abnormally adverse circumstances that have proceeded their inaugural seasons in the league.
Here is the third edition of a five-part series breaking down the top five position battles that will take place in training camp and the preseason—if there is one:
After not carrying no more than two quarterbacks on the active roster from 2010 to 2017 during the majority of the Joe Flacco era, the Ravens have carried three signal-callers in each of the last two seasons.
In 2018 it was Flacco, a rookie Lamar Jackson, and veteran Robert Griffin III rounding out the group in case Jackson’s learning curve was too steep. Last year after Flacco was traded in the offseason and Jackson was elevated to full-time starter status after an impressive 6-1 finish to his rookie year he was backed up by Griffin and sixth-round rookie Trace McSorley.
Even though the possibility of teams getting expanded rosters due to the uncertainty surrounding all of the safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic is being discussed, the battle for one of the one or two spots on the depth chart behind the reigning league MVP is still expected to be one of the most competitive in training camp.
This year in addition to Griffin and McSorley, undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Huntley out of Utah is also in the mix. Griffin is entering the final year of a two-year extension he signed last offseason and has been a great mentor for Jackson in his first two seasons. McSorley made the roster after a strong preseason last year but was inactive for all but one game last year. Huntley faces quite the uphill battle to make the roster with a seasoned vet and promising young draft pick ahead of him both of which have been in the system for a year a more.
Griffin still values his role with the Ravens but still desires to one day become a starter again. While he knows that the chances of that happening in Baltimore are slim to none barring an injury to Jackson (knock on wood), he also knows from personal experience that every back up is a play away from getting his number called.
The former No.2 overall pick that washed out of Washington after injuries marred a promising start to his career and who was out of football in 2017, has the most experience of the group. He’s also been spending a considerable amount of time throwing to several of the team’s receivers in private field workouts this offseason, including rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
Even though he’s not the incumbent, he continues to sharpen his skills and build a better rapport with as many pass catchers as he can so than if the time comes, they won’t be completely out of sync. He’ll be the favorite heading into camp and will do everything within his power to secure his position not only on the roster but as the primary backup.
McSorley capitalized on the opportunity to get an extended look in the preseason last year after Griffin suffered a hand injury in training camp. In four exhibition contests, he completed 56.7 percent of his passes and threw for four touchdowns with two interceptions. He also made plays with his legs rushing for 47 yards on 10 attempts and ran in a score.
He’s no Lamar Jackson but he does possess a similar dual-threat skillset that helps him create and extend plays when the original goes down so if called up the offense wouldn’t be limited like they would with a more traditional stationary pocket passer. If he can show continued improvement heading into his second season, then he could not only earn a roster spot but possibly even leapfrog Griffin as Jackson’s primary backup.
Huntley is the wildcard long shot to land a roster spot and with a reduced number or no preseason games at all, it will be very difficult for him to stand out enough in practice to gain enough ground over Griffin or McSorley. However, he does have great potential as a developmental quarterback that they might be able to sneak onto the practice squad in the event that he doesn’t make the final cut.
It’s a little surprising that he didn’t get drafted after posting the best stats of his college career in his senior season. He completed a highly efficient 73.1 percent of his passes and threw 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions in 14 games. He also showed dual-threat capability during his time at the helm for the Utes, rushing for 1146 yards and 16 touchdowns in four seasons.
Huntley earned first-team Pac-12 all-conference honors over Oregon’s Justin Herbert who was selected sixth overall in this year’s draft by the Los Angles Chargers. According to Pro Football Focus College, his mark of 82.6 was the highest adjusted completion percentage in college football last season. There’s also the fun fact that Huntley is from the same part of Florida as Jackson and the two went head to head in high school with Huntley’s Hallandale High Chargers besting the Lamarvelous-led Boynton Beach Bengal Tigers in a playoff game.
If rosters don’t get expanded and the team decides to keep more players at another position like running back where they have a four-headed monster according to General Manager Eric DeCosta or at defensive back since defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale likes to disguise his coverages in sub packages, that force them to revert back to the old two-quarterback system. In that case, the competition would be even more fierce but only time will tell.