The Ravens will hold their first full-team practice of training camp on Thursday, July 26. Each day leading up to the official start of camp, The Sun will examine several key position battles that will be decided during preseason.
Breaking it down: Even the most ardent Joe Flacco critic can’t question the quarterback’s toughness and durability. Flacco has never missed a game in four NFL seasons so Ravens’ fans haven’t had to fret about the identity of their backup quarterback.
Tyrod Taylor, a sixth-round pick in 2011 out of Virginia Tech, was Flacco’s backup last season and he played in three games and threw one pass, an 18-yard completion to Anquan Boldin in the team’s blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 14.
Team officials have been very complimentary of Taylor’s work in practice and in the meeting room and maintain that they’d be comfortable with him as the starter in the event of a Flacco injury. His athleticism can wow teammates and he certainly has the arm strength to make all the throws.
With Flacco away from the team during the mandatory mini-camp because of the birth of his first child, Taylor got the first-team snaps and struggled to avoid miscues. However, it’s unfair to judge the 22-year-old on his performance in a couple of offseason practices, and it’s impossible to know what the Ravens really have in Taylor until he sees more in-game situations.
Unlike last preseason, Taylor will be challenged for the backup role. His competition will be veteran Curtis Painter, who was let go by the Indianapolis Colts and opted to sign with the Ravens and reunite with his former head coach, Ravens quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.
Painter, 27, started eight games for the Colts last year, throwing six touchdowns compared to nine interceptions and completing 54.3 percent of his passes. He certainly isn’t a long-term answer for the Ravens but he does provide some insurance and veteran stability. The Ravens also want to push Taylor and make sure every player has competition for their job.
The bottom line: The Ravens have operated the past couple of seasons with just two quarterbacks on the roster, a calculated risk that worked out because of Flacco’s durability and toughness. All things being equal, they’d rather carry three signal callers and Painter’s presence on the roster will allow them to do that. While there is a good chance both stick on the roster heading into Week One, Taylor remains the clear favorite to be Flacco’s primary backup. His athleticism and upside give him the edge. The Ravens signed two other quarterbacks as undrafted free agents – Temple’s Chester Stewart and Florida’s John Brantley – and it’s possible they’ll hang onto one on them on the practice squad.