Mike Preston: Ravens QB Tyler Huntley as starter? Let’s keep that in perspective.
There’s no rush this season for Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley to prove he’s a legitimate NFL starter.
The 2020 Utah undrafted free agent has played well in the Ravens’ first two preseason games, completing 29 of 32 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging 7.4 yards per attempt with a 118.5 passer rating.
After every game, there are always rumors about how Huntley could start for other NFL teams and even speculation that he’ll be the quarterback of the future if the Ravens don’t sign Lamar Jackson. for a long term contract.
Right now, who cares? Really.
If Huntley, 24, becomes the starting quarterback this season, the Ravens are in trouble. Great difficulty. Huntley started four games for Jackson late last season and went 1-3 as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
So it’s all about perspective, and coach John Harbaugh has the right approach. Keep in mind that Harbaugh very rarely criticizes his players publicly, especially around training camp.
Despite the team’s 22-game winning streak in preseason games, he’s realistic.
“Without a doubt, you have to keep this in perspective. It’s still preseason,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not as intense, it’s not as accelerated as the regular season, a lot of [top] players don’t play there and there’s not as much at stake.”
That’s not to take anything away from Huntley, who is on a roll. The passing game was on point, the communication seems to be on point, and he’s formed great chemistry with rookie tight end Isaiah Likely.
What’s not to like?
“I think experience definitely plays a role in that,” Huntley said of his development. “I’ve just started my third year, I’ve seen a few different defenses, and I have a good sense of offense right now, and I just take what the defense gives me, and it keeps working. after time. So I’m going to keep building on that.
We saw similar signs last year. In fact, during training camp, Huntley threw the ball better than Jackson. His passes had more zip and he had better touch the long ball. Given the chance under the right circumstances, he could be successful in the short term.
Huntley did just that last season, completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 1,096 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. In his first career start against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 21, replacing an ailing Jackson, he completed 26 of 36 passes for 219 yards and led a late touchdown in a 16-13 win. He passed for 270 yards and a touchdown in a 24-22 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 12 and 215 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers a week later.
Then the opposing defensive coordinators began to break down Huntley’s film. They started scrambling his receivers off the line of scrimmage and forcing him to follow his progressions. Then he got the Jackson treatment, with teams throwing lightning from the outside to force him into the pocket. In his last two starts, he was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions as the Ravens lost to the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Ravens’ playoff chances crumbled at the end of the season, as did all the wild talk around town about Huntley being the permanent replacement for Jackson, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player of 2019.
Oh yeah, it got so ridiculous.
That won’t happen this season, at least that’s the hope. The Ravens are in a great position with their quarterbacks because Huntley is the perfect fit to fill the void.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jackson and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Huntley have similar skills when it comes to the ability to move in the pocket and improvise. Sure, Jackson is a better runner, but when the two are sprinting at full speed down the sideline, their long strides are nearly identical.
With Huntley, there is no need to modify or make major changes to the offense. The Ravens believe they’re unbeatable with Jackson, but also confident they can win with Huntley.
And although the Ravens are competitive with Huntley, they are one of the best teams in the AFC with Jackson. That’s why Huntley doesn’t need to prove himself yet. His time will come, but hopefully not in 2022.
“You have to improve on every level,” Harbaugh said of Huntley. “The timing, the precision, it’s really continuing to follow a trajectory that you want to see. We’ve seen that in both pre-season games. The way he handles the attack, the communication has been really good. He goes out and scrambles and makes plays with his feet and keeps the defense honest that way.
But this is only the pre-season.