The Baltimore Ravens are contemplating whether they should go with rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the backup to starter Joe Flacco.
The former Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year from Virginia Tech has registered some impressive moments during the preseason, enough so where the Ravens might not feel a pressing need to sign a veteran insurance policy in case anything happens to Flacco.
"I would be confident that he would go in there and play well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he can be the backup quarterback. Is he going to be the backup quarterback? We shall see."
The Ravens will probably only want to carry two quarterbacks on the active roster with third quarterback Hunter Cantwell still having practice squad eligibility and likely to clear waivers if he's released during the final major roster cutdown next weekend.
The New England Patriots notably went with undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer a few years ago as the backup to star quarterback Tom Brady, and that arrangement has worked out well.
If something did happen to Flacco during the season, many of the veteran options such as Jake Delhomme, Chris Simms and J.P. Losman would still be available to be signed.
"I know I have to impress people and people are going to be watching me as far as the No. 2 job," said Taylor, a sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech. "At the same time, I'm just trying to be the best quarterback I can be and show the coaches that I can be that guy if they need me to."
Taylor engineered a 34-31 comeback victory over the Washington Redskins last week, tossing a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Jones late in the fourth quarter.
"Well, Tyrod, I would say he's made the team: Newsflash,"Harbaugh said. "Tyrod played well. There are things that he needs to learn from. You have the ball third-and-two down there, you don't take a sack.
"I think that's something he'll learn from. Yet and still, some of the throws he made in the teeth of pressure were just exceptional for us. He was using his feet to get out of trouble a couple of times."
Completing 11 of 18 passes, Taylor passed for 125 yards, a touchdown and a 100.5 quarterback rating.
In three preseason games, Taylor has completed 35 of 57 passes for 392 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 73.1 passer rating.
The biggest challenge Taylor has had to deal with is dealing with pass protection issues with the reserve linemen. He's been sacked eight times.
He's also rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
General manager Ozzie Newsome referenced Taylor's precociousness during an interview with the team website.
"He has intangibles off the field, the way he handles himself as a person," Newsome said earlier this month."When you put on the tape and watch him play, you see him do some things a rookie quarterback shouldn't be able to do. There are going to be some veteran quarterbacks available.
"We can make a move at that point, but let's get this guy a lot of snaps in the meantime. Who's Peyton's backup? Tom Brady? Maybe we can do that with this kid, too. He's got something."
For the Hokies, Taylor passed for 7,017 yards and 44 touchdowns and rushed for 2,196 yards and 23 touchdowns.
And he set school records for total offense with 9,213 yards, career passing yards, career rushing yards for a quarterback and career wins by a starting quarterback, surpassing Michael Vick's records.
Taylor won 34 of 42 career starts, going to four bowl games and three ACC championship games.
Despite the NFL lockout costing him the chance to develop in minicamps, organized team activities and quarterback schools, Taylor has made his adjustments.
"Just learning quickly as possible," Taylor said. "It wasn't a challenge, just something you had to get used to. Everyone's put in this situation. I had a chance to work out with the team early.
"During the lockout, Joe went over the playbook with me, some things that I should learn. I kept those in my head and studied that book as much as possible. So, I think that kind of helped me out."
Ravens notebook: Mattison has filled in well for Birk
OWINGS MILLS -- Although six-time Pro Bowl selection Matt Birk is being counted on to start at center against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's Bryan Mattison who has done a viable job of holding down the spot during his absence.
A converted defensive end from Iowa who played offensive guard last year, after being promoted from the practice squad Mattison hasn't looked out of place at the new position. He drew praise from former Ravens nose guard Kelly Gregg after grappling with him in the second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Bryan played well," Gregg said. "He's got a bright future ahead of him."
The son of former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Mattison started the first three preseason games while Birk recovered from knee surgery.
"I think he's done well," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's playing center for the first time ever in his life. I'm a little surprised at how well he's done blocking people. He's done a good job blocking both run game and pass game."
There have been a few bumpy moments, though.
"I'm not surprised at the fact that we've had some late snaps, some early snaps and some miscalled protections," Harbaugh said. "So, that shouldn't be surprising at all. I think he's done better than we anticipated, but those things are going to come up with a guy who really hasn't played the position."
A former team captain at Iowa, Mattison was a second-team All-Big Ten Conference defensive lineman who recorded nine sacks as a senior and finished with 171 career tackles, 33 1/2 tackles for losses and 20 sacks.
Mattison has bulked up from 272 pounds when he arrived in Baltimore and is now listed at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds.
"It says he's a football player," Harbaugh said. "It says he's smart and tough and incredibly dedicated, and he works really hard at it. I mean, he's changed his body. He was a 285- pound guy and now he's about a 315-pound guy, and it's all good weight. He's worked really hard."
LINE WORK: The Ravens are considering how they'll get the first-team offensive line work in the preseason finale Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons after acquiring left tackle Bryant McKinnie and Birk returning to practice.
Ideally, they would get a little bit of work together in a game situation in advance of the season-opener Sept. 11 against the Steelers.
"We have already talked about that as a staff and I will let Coach Harbaugh address that specifically, but we're preparing to get guys ready to play on Thursday," offensive line coach Andy Moeller said Saturday. "How much they play? We really haven't determined that."
The Ravens have allowed 11 sacks in three preseason games.
Now, they're moving Michael Oher to right tackle, installing McKinnie at left tackle, getting Birk back on the field and right guard Marshal Yanda has returned from back spasms.
For fear of injury, it's a risk-reward situation.
"I have both feelings," Harbaugh said. "I'd like to see them play the whole game, but I'd like to see them healthy in the opener as well. There's the dilemma."
CONTRACT NUMBERS: The Ravens' one-year deal with former New England Patriots offensive lineman Mark LeVoir is worth up to $1 million: a $685,000 base salary, a $100,000 signing bonus and $215,000 in playing-time incentive clauses.
Meanwhile, the Ravens' three-year contract with rookie outside linebacker Michael McAdoo is worth $1.4 million and includes a $5,000 signing bonus.
The Ravens don't expect McAdoo to contribute since the former University of North Carolina player hasn't played football in two years due to eligibility problems.
"I didn't watch him or study him. [Director of college scouting] Joe Hortiz and [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and those guys brought him in, so we'll just have to see," Harbaugh said. "It's impossible for him to come in and contribute in any way. He hasn't played football in two years. He's just a young kid. They say he's talented, so we'll just kind of look at him and see how he does. I say that's a flyer right now. It'll be fun to see how it works out."
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