BALTIMORE — While most of his Baltimore Ravens teammates are preparing for Sundays, Tyrod Taylor’s time to excel is during the week.
On the practice fields hidden behind team headquarters, the coaching staff unleashes him on the defense as the scout-team quarterback. They let him fling footballs downfield, escape from the pocket and run top-secret trick plays that were scribbled on a chalkboard specifically for him.
Once defenders were done grasping at air as Taylor scrambled around during Friday’s practice, teammates stood in the locker room grasping for words to describe his skill set.
“Whenever that boy gets a chance,” said wide receiver Tandon Doss, “he is going to be a monster. His playmaking ability is incredible. I’ve never seen somebody so athletic play football. He’s a freak. He’s got it. He’s something special, I’m telling you.”
Throughout the NFL, backup quarterbacks have gotten opportunities to prove themselves after injuries or ineptitude sent a dozen starters to the bench. But in Baltimore, Taylor patiently waits behind Joe Flacco, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who has not missed a snap because of injury in his six seasons in the league.
“It can definitely be frustrating because you know the talent that you have,” Taylor said. “But I’m still learning, and I’m taking everything and just learning from it. That’s the main thing, just being patient.”
The Ravens are thankful that Taylor’s playing time is mostly limited to preseason games and the occasional trick play. But even though he is still relatively unknown in his third NFL season, the team is confident in Taylor’s ability should Flacco ever be sidelined.
“Tyrod is a great player, and if that was to happen, I think everybody should feel very confident about his abilities to go in there, run the offense and get the job done,” Flacco said.
Taylor played in college at Virginia Tech. And his athleticism was on display Sunday when he took an end-around 18 yards for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals. But besides teammates, coaches and Ravens staffers, no one has seen him throw a pass in an 11-on-11 scenario since the preseason.
Taylor impressed in his first two preseason appearances. He threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns with one interception while also rushing for 42 yards as the Ravens took advantage of his legs with a read-option package.
He suffered a concussion in the third preseason game, though, and did not suit up for the finale, which the backup usually starts.
“He’s a guy that can certainly throw the ball,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “He’s a quarterback that’s a good field general, a quarterback that can move the ball down the field. I think as time goes on, he just keeps developing and getting better with the limited amount of snaps that he gets in terms of games. But [we] can see the growth and development.”
In his first two seasons, Taylor was just trying to learn the offense. Heading into his third season, he made the mental aspect of the position his primary focus and feels much more comfortable making protection calls at the line of scrimmage and calling audibles.
“That’s what’s big in this league — just conducting the offense,” Taylor said. “I’ve always had the physical ability to go out there and throw the football and make plays.”
His athletic feats are passed around the locker room like folklore, the way he can sky for dunks on the basketball court or juke defenders in the open field.
“Honestly, he reminds me of [Seattle Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson,” inside linebacker Josh Bynes said. “He’s that kind of guy that people probably looked over him because he was short and this and that. They’re very similar. They’re both elusive. And they can launch the ball down the field. It’s a tough task going against him every day in practice.”
Taylor’s only extended action in a meaningful game came in last year’s regular-season finale against the Bengals, when he threw for 149 yards and an interception and also rushed for 65 yards and a score after the Ravens, who had nothing to play for, quickly pulled Flacco and other starters.
After the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round in 2011, Taylor, who started 42 games at Virginia Tech and was the ACC player of the year as a senior, knew he would have to get used to watching from the sideline, but he refused to change his mindset.
“It definitely was a big adjustment, but I never view myself as a backup,” said Taylor.
— Baltimore Sun