Ravens backup QB Tyrod Taylor provides early spark, then fizzles
By By Matt Vensel and The Baltimore Sun
Nov 24, 2013 at 6:40 PM
As Tyrod Taylor took his place behind center for a handful of snaps on Sunday, Joe Flacco stood out wide near the sideline, his $120.6 million hands stuffed into his handwarmer and his body language screaming that he had little interest in running routes as a wide receiver.
Looking for a way to utilize the athleticism of their backup quarterback while also trying to spark their struggling running game, the Ravens trotted Taylor out onto the field for a dozen plays, seven as a wide receiver and five at quarterback with Flacco lined up as a wide-out.
Taylor rushed for seven yards, threw an incomplete pass and had a catch for six yards in a 19-3 win over the New York Jets. After the game, though, Flacco made it clear his preferred position is quarterback.
"It's good and fun for a little bit, but that's it," Flacco said with a smirk. "I don't want to be lining up at [the] Z and X [receiver spots]. I want to line up behind center."
Taylor's first appearance came on the Ravens' second offensive play of the game. Flacco faked an end-around handoff to Taylor before flipping the ball to running back Ray Rice for no gain.
On their next possession, Taylor took his first snap at quarterback with Flacco lined up wide right. Taylor ran around left end and tiptoed down the sideline for 17 yards and a first down.
Taylor's presence in the game plan appeared to catch the Jets off guard. But as the game went on the plays with Taylor, which included some read-option runs, became less effective.
He lost six yards on one run and seven on another. The only pass he threw was behind tight end Ed Dickson, who could not make the catch. Taylor did gain six yards when he got the ball in space after Flacco completed a quick screen pass.
"It's always good to go out there and showcase the things that I can do," Taylor said. "It wasn't a perfect game by any means by me. I was able to go out there and change some things up and get some yardage out there."
Taylor learned early last week that the Ravens planned to use a package of plays featuring him. Taylor, as the scout team quarterback, also ran Wildcat plays in practice to help the defense prepare for the Jets, who used the formation on a handful of snaps with wide receiver Josh Cribbs behind center and rookie quarterback Geno Smith at wide receiver.
The Ravens, who have been looking for ways to get Taylor involved in the offense, knew that running the ball would be a tough task against a Jets front that entered Sunday's game ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense.
"We talked about getting Tyrod more involved. It's a challenge," coach John Harbaugh said. "We've got a great athlete. He's a special athlete. He happens to play quarterback. He's a quarterback — I want to emphasize that. But he's also got other skills that he can help with. We've been working it in."
Taylor rushed for seven yards on four carries, but his 17-yard run was the longest gain on the ground for the Ravens, who rushed for just 67 yards on 31 carries.
Despite those numbers, Rice believes the third-year quarterback gave the offense a spark.
"He's a talent. I always say, if I have a son, I want him to be gifted like Tyrod," Rice said. "It was huge for him to come in and do what he did."
Asked if it was a delicate balance because utilizing Taylor at times meant taking the ball out of the hands of Flacco, who threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, Rice pointed at fellow running back Bernard Pierce, who was getting dressed at the locker stall next to him.
"Look at us. We've got a balance right here," Rice said. "It's hard because there is only one ball to go around. I'm just glad we were able to find a way to get [Taylor] into the game."
There does not appear to be a controversy here. Flacco, who in his rookie season lined up at wide receiver for trick plays with fellow quarterback Troy Smith, was not insubordinate when asked to play receiver. And Taylor said that his role on the team is to learn from Flacco and prepare himself to play in the event that Flacco were to be injured.
Harbaugh was noncommittal, though, when asked if Taylor's role will expand in the coming weeks.
"I can't tell you. I can't comment on that, as you all know," Harbaugh said. "We'll see."