The Ravens entered training camp with three quarterbacks who have started (Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III) or possess the potential to start one day (Lamar Jackson). Flacco was far and away the starter, but Griffin III and Jackson made things interesting throughout camp. Jackson didn’t seem to be fully ready to take over the reigns as the backup and Griffin III was kept on the roster as an insurance policy.
One of the major questions heading into the season is who will be Baltimore’s number two quarterback? Is it Griffin or Jackson? Both have made cases for their ability to back up Flacco during the preseason. Griffin offers his veteran experience as a starter in the NFL, having made 40 starts. Jackson is Baltimore’s first-round selection and has the dynamic ability to extend plays.
For John Harbaugh, this is a luxury problem. Baltimore has the depth at quarterback that they haven’t had in recent seasons. Ryan Mallett was Flacco’s backup for the past few seasons. Mallett hasn’t had the career that Griffin has, nor the potential that Jackson possesses. Now Baltimore has three quarterbacks that can take snaps in a pinch.
“I’m excited to have three quality quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We talked about it last week. It makes our quarterback room stronger, and that’s really what it does. From a team standpoint, you can look at it any number of different ways. There are a lot of factors that go into it that were considered, and that was the way it shook out.”
With Jackson’s ability to scramble and make plays in the open field, it could alter what Baltimore does in Week 1. It’s possible that Jackson could be made the de facto backup for a game, with Griffin III serving as the emergency quarterback.
“We’ll do whatever is best for our team,” said Harbaugh. “Any given Sunday, we’ll have the 46 guys up that give us the best chance to be successful, and we’ll just see what that is every week.”
In case of an injury to Flacco that could put him out for a week or multiple weeks, Baltimore can hand the reigns to Griffin as the caretaker of the offense. It could also mean that three quarterbacks could be active on Sunday.
“It could mean anything,” Harbaugh said about keeping three quarterbacks. “It won’t be any more than three! It won’t be any less than two! We’ll see. I really don’t know. Hey, it’s day-to-day. Any quarterback will tell you, any player, [that] you’re one play away. You’re one play away from being the guy. Those guys have to prepare just that way.”
Baltimore could use the extra playmaking ability of Jackson on Sunday with the injury to tight end Hayden Hurst. It also gives other teams another aspect to prepare for when it comes to game planning for the Ravens. Jackson scored a combined 109 (69 passing, 50 rushing) touchdowns in college and that ability to find the end zone had been on full display during the preseason. Jackson scored six touchdowns during the 2018 preseason - with three apiece from passing and rushing.
Harbaugh joked around with reporters when he was asked about who the number two quarterback would be. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Griffin III would be the backup to Flacco. Benjamin Albright also reported that nine teams checked in on the availability of Griffin III before roster cuts. Unsurprisingly, Harbaugh questioned where the report came from.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, what’s the source,” Harbaugh asked about the report that Griffin III was definitively the backup quarterback. “Was it sourced? I don’t know. It’s like the old song, ‘I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.’ I guess he went through the article on a source with no name. That’s good, right? That’s good! I don’t know the name of the group.” (Jerry Coleman: “America.”) “America, I remember them. Yes, all right! Jerry Coleman, that’s a good call. Don’t play Jerry Coleman in the radio dial game.”
After questions in college football with Nick Saban at Alabama and the NFL with Doug Pederson about who their starters will be, Baltimore has gone in a different direction. Instead, the question remains: Who will be the number two quarterback? Harbaugh isn’t going to divulge that information just yet.
“I’m not saying,” Harbaugh stated. “You guys can report anything you want anyway, so just go for it. Or whoever put the report out.”