Ravens head coach John Harbaugh ended his opening statement to reporters Wednesday with a shout-out to his five quarterbacks, but he mostly singled out Joe Flacco, a regular at voluntary workouts, for praise.
"Joe Flacco and all the QBs [have done well], but Joe has been playing great," he said after Wednesday's organized team activity (OTA). "He's been impressive fundamentally. The ball's been in the right place. He's been throwing the ball really well. Everything he's done -- hard work-wise -- has shown up in these practices."
Flacco was sharp in the OTA workouts that were open to the media and clicked with Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss, wide receivers who are now in their second seasons. As my partner in crime Jeff Zrebiec wrote this morning, Flacco certainly doesn't look like he is overly concerned about his contract status.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is also in his second season, also had a strong practice Wednesday. He made several nice passes in 11-on-11 drills and he later followed up his long, impromptu scramble down the right sideline in the two-minute drill with a touchdown pass. He has stayed mostly tethered to the pocket this spring, but I would be lying if I could you that his long run wasn't the most impressive play we saw from him.
Taylor dropped back to pass and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle quickly beared down on him. Taylor looked downfield as Kindle closed on him then made a quick jab step, which froze Kindle in his tracks, as he rolled out of the pocket to his right. Seeing the sideline open, Taylor took off and picked up at least 30 yards before he was "tackled" by the second-string defense. There's no question the 22-year-old is one heck of an athlete.
After practice, a reporter asked Harbaugh if he would "utilize his talents more this season." The coach paused to carefully choose his words. He did this for a couple of reasons. One, he didn't want to open the door -- even if it was just a crack -- for a quarterback controversy, because utilizing Taylor more means he would be using his franchise quarterback less. Two, you know Harbaugh isn't going to tip his hand when it comes to strategy.
"We're always looking to utilize everyone's talents. We want to utilize everybody's talents to the max," Harbaugh eventually said. "He's no different than anybody else. We want to develop everybody as much as we can. We want to bring them as far as we can every single day and … then just see how it all shakes out. But, Tyrod is a very good player. He's getting better every day. He's going to be a valuable part of our team."
What has Taylor gotten better at and how has he grown?
"He's grown everywhere," Harbaugh said. "Being a quarterback is complicated -- there's a lot to it. He's throwing the ball really well. His fundamentals -- all of those guys have really improved their fundamentals. But, [he is] just handling the offense, understanding defenses, something that gets talked about every day."
Despite the offseason signing of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter, Taylor is the clear No. 2 quarterback heading into next week's mandatory minicamp. The Ravens dodged a bullet going with just two quarterbacks last year -- thanks to Flacco's impressive durability -- so it wouldn't be surprising if they carried three in 2012. But despite concern about Taylor being unproven, it appears the top backup job is his to lose.
Taylor, who completed his only pass attempt and had a one-yard run in his three appearances last season, will have to show this summer that he has grasped the offense -- it's encouraging that he has been helping Painter learn it this spring -- and that he can make more plays with his arms than his legs. But there's no question that Taylor can hurt defenses if he does escape the pocket. That's something most quarterbacks are unable to do.
But let's not forget that every quarterback is capable of a long run every now and then. Yes, even Joe Flacco.