Baltimore Ravens backup QB Matt Schaub evaluates his play so far in training camp. Schaub also talks about his role as a backup to starter Joe Flacco. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Matt Schaub's training camp interceptions have been well-documented. His errant throws have spurred some groans from the fans at the Under Armour Performance Center. One prominent Raven even felt compelled to remind Schaub what color jerseys his receivers were wearing after a series of incompletions.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has heard some of the criticism and he's not backing off his opinion that the veteran backup to quarterback Joe Flacco has had a strong training camp.
"He's not throwing the ball as well as Joe, I will grant that," Harbaugh said of Schaub. "He's had a few crazy plays, some tipped balls that have gone back. I believe he's been practicing very, very well. He gives a lot as a backup quarterback. We hope we don't need him, but if we do need him, he's going to play well."
Harbaugh said Tuesday that Schaub will play a lot throughout the preseason, including in the Ravens' opener Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens haven't had a backup quarterback start a regular-season game since Flacco entered the league in 2008, but they prepare in training camp for all scenarios.
They'll want to see Schaub work with the first-team offense and build chemistry with the young receivers. They'll want to see him run the two-minute drill. And above all, they'll want to make sure that Flacco stays healthy this preseason and is kept out of harm's way.
It's all new ground for Schaub, who hasn't started a preseason as the definitive backup since 2006 when he was behind Michael Vick while with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I wouldn't say it gets easier. You definitely want to be on the field and play, but I know my role," Schaub said. "I know where I am right now, especially on this team with Joe and what he's accomplished through his career and to this point, it's been remarkable.
"I just want to come in here and help this team win another championship in any capacity that I can, and that's helping the young guys out, getting them up to speed throughout training camp and throughout the season, getting the defense prepared once we get to game weeks, helping Joe out however I can with the game plan and the coaches. I feel I have some experience under my belt where I can really provide some assistance, so I'm looking forward to that.
"But I wouldn't say it ever gets easy, because you want to be out there and play."
Schaub, 34, was cut by the Oakland Raiders in March about a year after the AFC West team acquired him from the Houston Texans with the intention of installing him as their starter. However, Schaub had a poor training camp, struggled with elbow tendinitis, and the Raiders ultimately gave the job to talented rookie Derek Carr.
Schaub played in 11 games for the Raiders, mostly in mop-up situations. He attempted 10 passes and threw two interceptions. He then was cut by one of the league's worst teams, continuing a sudden and stunning fall for a quarterback who led the NFL with 4,770 passing yards in 2009.
Schaub, who agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the Ravens in March after Flacco's longtime backup, Tyrod Taylor, signed with the Buffalo Bills, is just two seasons removed from being selected to his second Pro Bowl team and getting a four-year, $62 million contract extension from the Texans.
"Last year was very difficult," Schaub said. "It was a tough year in general. There were a lot of things going on away from football that a lot of people don't know about. It was a very tough year. I learned a lot from it. I have grown as a person, both as a football player and as a person. I'm just excited to be here and be part of the Ravens organization, and looking to great things this year."
Schaub defended his play this summer, saying that he feels like he's had a "good camp."
"I felt things have gone relatively well," he said. "Obviously, it's a time you want to test things, you want to test yourself, test your offense, test the other guys in the huddle and see what they can do and see who's going to be there to make the plays, so it's just one of those things where we're going against a good defense day in and day out and it's really challenging us, but it's been really fun."
As for his frequent camp interceptions, Schaub said: "You never want them to happen, but like I said, at this time of year, you want to test things. You want to see who's going to be able to separate, who's going to make plays, and test yourself. You don't want things to be completely easy and take the easy play, but when the lights come on, you do want to take those plays. They're going to happen, and you just move on to the next play."
The Ravens understand Schaub has some warts, but they value his experience and his calm and steady demeanor, believing that he's a good complement to Flacco and a good mentor for younger players.
"Matt has played a lot of football, and he has played a lot of football in a system very similar to this one," Harbaugh said. "He has seen blitzes. He has seen run adjustments. He is able to operate very effectively in this offense and get us in the right type of calls. He can throw the ball, still. He's accurate."
Taylor, who attempted 35 passes during the regular season in four years as Flacco's backup, had his play in training camp and the preseason scrutinized as well, but it was nothing like the attention Schaub has received over the past couple of weeks. Even rush linebacker Terrell Suggs got in the act at last Saturday's practice, yelling across the field, "Hey, Matt, your guys are the guys in purple."
Schaub has looked frustrated at times and he's done little to quell questions about his arm strength. He also has not received the benefit of doubt because of how much he's struggled over the past two years. In 2013, he had interceptions returned for touchdowns in four consecutive games. Over his past two seasons, he's thrown 10 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
"He had the one [tough year] in Houston, and then last year in Oakland, things didn't go quite the way [he hoped]," said Marty Mornhinweg, the Ravens' first-year quarterbacks coach. "He's a very good quarterback, he has an awful lot of strengths, he's very consistent and he knows much of this offense already. He's just an excellent leader. He has a lot of strengths, so I would have no concern about [him starting]. In fact, I'd be excited for him to get to play in these preseason games and see exactly where he's at."