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Taylor can show the Ravens that they don't need a backup QB

By Matt Vensel

5:00 PM EDT, August 10, 2011

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There will be no shortage of intriguing players to watch Thursday night when the Ravens play the Eagles in their first preseason game of the summer. Sergio Kindle. Torrey Smith. Domonique Foxworth. Terrence Cody. Ricky Williams. But the young man I'll be focusing my attention on is the rookie quarterback out of Virginia Tech.

When the NFL’s quarterback carousel stopped spinning last week -- and news leaked that Marc Bulger had decided to retire months ago -- sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor was left as the Ravens’ No. 2 quarterback.

I suspect the Ravens would like to have a veteran behind Joe Flacco just in case the fourth-year quarterback has to miss a start (something that hasn’t happened yet). A solid veteran option might be available when rosters are cut down. But for now, Taylor has an opportunity to show the Ravens that they don’t need one.

Flacco is expected to play the first quarter in Philadelphia with Taylor taking over for a half or so. At some point, camp body Hunter Cantwell -- a “slappy” in Brian Billick’s vernacular -- will get action.

"There's a lot of naysayers, a lot of haters and a lot of doubters that think that I won't do well, but at the end of the day, I answer to myself,” Taylor said. “I just want to go out there and play well.”

The Ravens might have gotten themselves a late-round steal in Taylor, and I love it that he has a chip on his shoulder. But I need to see how Taylor fares in game action before I can get comfortable with the notion of a rookie signal-caller guiding the Ravens in the unfortunate event Flacco goes down.

Flacco showed he could do it three seasons ago, but that was a rare occurrence. That’s why we all raved about his poise. But coach John Harbaugh doesn’t think the pressure will get to Taylor on Thursday.

“The guy has played a lot of football games,” the former Eagles coordinator told reporters this week. “I don’t think it’s going to be in any way overwhelming for him to play a football game. He’s a four-year starter at big-time college football. But, it’ll be interesting to see how he applies the trade at this level.”

If Taylor has the poise of a veteran this preseason, the Ravens might not need to sign a veteran after all.

That’s why I’ll be watching him closely against the Eagles’ second-stringers.