OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Tyler Huntley, for all of his athletic gifts, is no Lamar Jackson. Nobody is.
His Baltimore Ravens teammates know that. But it won’t stop them from believing in their backup quarterback during a pivotal stretch run as they sit atop the AFC North, with a rivalry matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck.
‘They see him practice every day, they see how hard he works, and they know he’s talented,’ head coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. ‘So, he’s the guy, and that’s it.’
Jackson, who did not practice Wednesday, will be sidelined with a knee injury that ESPN reported is a PCL sprain. Huntley came in for Jackson to start the second quarter against the Denver Broncos last Sunday and led a game-winning 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive – capping it with a two-yard touchdown rush with 28 seconds remaining.
Huntley finished 27-of-32 through the air with an interception and added 41 yard rushing yards on 10 attempts.
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‘It’s impressive any time you can get your backup quarterback to come in and lead in a game-winning drive like that,’ right tackle Morgan Moses said Wednesday. ‘The biggest thing is that as a backup quarterback, you don’t get those opportunities in practice, because the starting quarterback is always taking all the main reps and stuff like that. So, for him to come in there and be confident and lead that offense down for that drive, man, it was big time.’
Harbaugh said he thinks the media will make a bigger deal of the quarterback change than need be.
‘He’s a player that has a lot of dynamics to his game; he can throw, he can run, he operates really well,’ Harbaugh said. ‘He’s not as experienced, obviously, but he is experienced.’
Experience from last year is key
Entering this season, Huntley spoke about confidence gained from his four starts to round out the 2021 season while Jackson nursed an ankle bruise and the Ravens disappeared from the AFC playoff race.
But it was valuable experience, his teammates said.
‘He’s just a steady, steady presence. Every day he comes to practice, works hard,’ right guard Kevin Zeitler told USA TODAY Sports. ‘We’ve had opportunities in games last year where he’s obviously built his rapport and it’s very obvious we can do things with him. It’s not like we’re worried we can’t do the things we need to do. It’s been proven that you can get anything that you need him to do.’
Moses said Huntley’s familiarity with starting is important.
‘He’s going into a territory that’s familiar, and so I’m excited for him and to see what he does,’ Moses said.
Trust builds fast
Moses, in his first season with Baltimore, realized Huntley — a third-year player from Utah — was on top of it all immediately.
‘I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, learning the offense, and he brought me along,’ Moses said. ‘I just think you see him in the huddle, you see him on the sidelines, during practice, talking to guys. Guys respect him.
‘They respect his craft, they respect what he brings to the table, and they respect how he approaches the game. And I think when you have that set of tools, it goes a long way.’
The difference from a year ago, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser said, is that he is more confident and poised.
‘He just goes out there and plays, and he knows that we have his back,’ Bowser said. ‘That’s anybody’s thing — is to have somebody there to know that he’s got your back regardless of what you do out there. So, he can just go out there and play and just go with the flow of things and go out there and do his thing that we know that he can do.’
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.