Through all of the Baltimore Ravens injuries, signing of Austin Howard, and the questionable handlings of the Colin Kaepernick train, it's almost hard-pressed to even think that there is actually a game being played on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens will take the field for live game action for the first time in 2017 against the Washington Redskins, as fans will get their first glimpse of the team. Unfortunately, fans might not get to see a lot of the starters come the first quarter because of injuries, especially the one to their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco. Flacco has not practiced all of training camp, and it's highly doubtful at this point he will suit up Thursday, even if he returns to practice this week. Which means backup Ryan Mallett will get the nod.
As a lot of reports have shown, Mallet has struggled mightily in camp, including having a five interception session, prompting him to throw his white towel in the air. Terrell Suggs taunted offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg saying:
"Hey Marty, tell Mallett to throw to the guys wearing purple jerseys."
Sessions like these are no stranger to Mallett as a starting quarterback. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third-round of the 2011 NFL Draft, as someone who was thought to be a first-round talent. In August of 2014, Mallett was traded to the Houston Texans after spending three years as Tom Brady's backup, and would take over in November of that season. This was his shot, his chance to prove he was a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL, but he tore his pectoral muscle just a few weeks later.
The following year, Mallett was in a battle for the starting quarterback job with Brian Hoyer. Head coach Bill O' Brien decided to go with Hoyer, and the following day Mallet missed practice to what he said was due to oversleeping. This is something that has now carried over to the perception of Mallet. He took over for Hoyer only one week in to the 2015 season, but he struggled and would be benched in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. Mallett would get the start one week later, but would leave the game due to an injury.
On October 25th, 2015, Mallett missed the teams flight to Miami, and was consequently released two days later. As a Texan, Mallett threw five touchdowns and six interceptions, while passing for 1,170 yards. Mallett would sign with the Ravens on December 15th after the injuries to Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub, and would go on to have the best game of his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers by throwing for 274 yards and a touchdown pass in a 20-17 win. In the final game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, he passed for 292 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions.
Two years have passed since that great showing against Pittsburgh, and Mallett has yet to really improve from that day. Last year during training camp and the preseason, Mallett struggled as well and was almost beat out by Josh Johnson. Now, Mallett is struggling once again in the worst of times with Flacco's injury, and the possibility of someone like Kaepernick just waiting for a shot.
The Ravens are counting on Mallett to step up if Flacco has to miss time in the regular-season, and a good performance against the Redskins would certainly help. Baltimore obviously does have some form of faith in him due to his one-year contract extension he signed this offseason. However, If he struggles, you can be sure the Kaepernick train will go off once again with all eyes on the Ravens to possibly make a move for a backup quarterback. If Mallett goes in and looks effective while throwing a touchdown pass or two, it would go a long way for his confidence and the team’s confidence in him that he can step in for Flacco if need be.
Not only does Mallett’s status as a Raven hang in the balance Thursday, but his entire career possibly as a whole. With him at the age of 29, the days of his performances at Arkansas are long gone, as is the state of him as a starting caliber quarterback that some thought just a few years ago. The ball is in Ryan Mallett’s court come Thursday night against the Redskins, it's up to him to make the most of it.
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