Tyrod Taylor out to prove he's a viable No. 2 QB

ATLANTA — Minutes after Tyrod Taylor threw the game-winning touchdown in last week's preseason win over the Washington Redskins, Ravens coach John Harbaugh declared that the rookie quarterback had made the team.

But the question that no one will answer this week is whether Taylor has won the No. 2 quarterback job.

The Ravens' preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday is Taylor's last chance to prove he is ready to be the team's primary backup to Joe Flacco. Although the starters are expected to make a cameo at the Georgia Dome, Taylor will receive most of the work at quarterback and he understands the importance of what many fans consider a meaningless game.

"I know I have to impress people and people are going to be watching me as far as the No. 2 job," Taylor said. "I continue to continue to learn as a quarterback, but at the same time, I want to be the person that they need me to be."

Taylor's battle is a different one because he isn't really competing against anyone on the team. Hunter Cantwell, the only other quarterback on the team outside of Flacco and Taylor, was a practice squad player last year.

Taylor's job is to convince the Ravens not to acquire a veteran cut by another team this weekend (perhaps Sage Rosenfels or David Carr from the New York Giants or Derek Anderson from Carolina) or sign an experienced free agent (like Jake Delhomme, Todd Bouman or J.P. Losman). Brodie Croyle, who had been linked to the Ravens, recently signed with Arizona.

These remain viable options for the Ravens because team officials have stopped short of naming Taylor the backup.

"I would be confident that he would go in there and play well," Harbaugh said. "I think he can be the backup quarterback. Is he going to be the backup quarterback? We shall see."

Taylor put together his best performance last week in leading the Ravens to a 34-31 comeback win over the Redskins. He completed 11 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a quarterback rating of 100.5.

His shining moment came on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jones with 22 seconds remaining. What's even more impressive is he would have had the game-winner on the previous drive if running back Anthony Allen didn't let the fourth-down go off his fingertips in the end zone.

"When you watch the tape, you see him do some things and you go, 'A rookie shouldn't do that. That doesn't happen,' " general manager Ozzie Newsome told the team's web site.

There's an argument that the Ravens don't need a proven backup because Flacco has been so durable. He is one of four NFL quarterbacks to make every start the previous three seasons (Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning are the others).

The Ravens, though, placed a premium on the backup quarterback position a year ago when there wasn't a salary cap. The team signed Marc Bulger to a one-year, $3.8 million contract, but he wasn't an option this year because he retired.

Now, the Ravens could be going from Bulger, who had thrown 122 touchdown passes, to Taylor, who has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season one.

"I don't know that you have a comfort level with anybody in their first year, and maybe a lot of guys in their second year, because there's just a lot of unknowns," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said of Taylor. "But I do like his approach; I do like what I've seen. I think he's going to get better and better and better, and I think we're the type of team that if he has to come in for a quarter, or a series, or for whatever reason, we'll find a way to get the job done."

The Atlantic Coast Conference's Player of the Year last season, Taylor passed for 7,017 yards and 44 touchdowns while rushing for 2,196 yards. He surpassed all of Michael Vick's records at Virginia Tech, setting school records for career total offense, career passing yards, career rushing yards by a quarterback, career wins by a starting quarterback, career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and touchdown passes in a season.

Taylor was surprised when he fell to the sixth round in April. He had thoughts of being taken in the third round or maybe sneaking into the bottom of the second.

But he was glad that it was the Ravens who picked him.

"There was a lot of talk in our draft room about moving the kid," Newsome said. "When we interviewed him at the East-West game, he said, 'I want to be a quarterback. If you draft me, you are drafting a quarterback.' I understand why now."

Said Taylor: "I've been playing quarterback since I was 5 years old. Thinking of another position wasn't natural to me. The people I've played with and the people I've played against know I'm a quarterback."

Part of Taylor's progression as a quarterback has been having an experienced starter in Flacco.

When Flacco was a rookie in 2008, all the other quarterbacks were learning the new offense, too. Now, with Flacco in his fourth year in the system, Taylor has a resource that few young Ravens quarterbacks have ever had.

"I think Joe has been a big part of his development," Cameron said. "Those guys work together extremely well. They're different in a lot of ways, but mentally, they're the same in a lot of ways. Both are very bright, very sharp, very into what we're doing. So, I think there's some great chemistry there, and we want to get Tyrod as ready as we can."

Flacco has been impressed with his Taylor's demeanor.

"He's managed to pick up the offense pretty quickly. He's playing football," Flacco said. "If he makes a mistake, he doesn't let it faze him. He's been confident with everything he's doing."