Ravens training camp started with a stunner as Lamar Jackson wasn't on the field and Head Coach John Harbaugh announced his star quarterback is going on the COVID-19 list.
That meant the battle for the backup quarterback spot was thrust into the spotlight as Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley both got reps with the first-team offense. It also means it's on them to help the passing attack continue to grow while Jackson is sidelined.
The good news is both players responded with arguably the best practices in recent memory, helping the offense to still have a strong day overall.
"Those guys had all the reps and they did well," Harbaugh said. "I was pleased with them. It's only going to bolster those two guys and make those guys stronger than they would have been otherwise and it helps our team be better."
McSorley had a beautiful deep pass to Miles Boykin bounce off the wide receiver's fingertips, but the former Penn State quarterback put it in the perfect spot. McSorley's best throw may have been one deep down the seam to J.K. Dobbins, which McSorley dropped right over Tyus Bowser's shoulder into Dobbins' outstretched arms. On the very next play, McSorley threw another deep dime, this time down the sideline, to Marquise Brown for what would have been a touchdown.
They were some of the best throws the 2019 sixth-round pick has ever made in practice as a Raven.
Huntley also had perhaps his finest practice as a pro. He connected with Brown on a long touchdown during 11-on-11s early in practice, then showed off some of his speed and elusiveness on a broken play scramble. Huntley isn't as explosive as Jackson as a runner (nobody is) but he may be the closest thing.
Huntley also had a nice play when he scrambled to his right to find Devin Duvernay breaking back for a sideline completion. Huntley, who took over for Jackson in last year's playoff loss in Buffalo, also had a precise toss to tight end Eli Wolf that Wolf plucked off the top of a defender's head.
"I thought they performed very well. The ball went up top a lot today," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "I couldn't even tell who was throwing the ball a lot of times. I was just looking up trying to find the ball and it being right in the spot it was supposed to be."
Here are other notes from Wednesday's practice:
- Bradley Bozeman's first day of training camp as the new center didn't start on the right foot. One of his first snaps during 7-on-7 drills was errant. After he had another off-target snap during 11-on-11 work, Bozeman tossed the glove he was wearing to the side.
- Marcus Peters strapped up tight end Mark Andrews during an early route in 7-on-7s. It was impressive to see considering hardly anybody won those battles vs. Andrews in OTAs and minicamp.
- Brown was getting loose all day and his filthiest play may have been a double move he put on Davontae Harris early in practice. Brown completely shook free, caught the deep pass from Huntley, then literally waved bye-bye to the defense.
- New wide receiver Sammy Watkins displayed how he can do some of the dirty work to be a chain-moving presence. He's big and physical and showed that with a couple tough box-out catches in traffic. He had a good first day.
- Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said he wants to get Dobbins more involved in the passing game and that was evident in Wednesday's practice. Dobbins certainly has the skills to take on a bigger role in that aspect. He's had some concentration drops, but his hands are generally very good.
- Rookie fullback/tight end Ben Mason caught the first pass that came his way in the flats, then dropped a later one. Considering he caught just three passes during his college career, that will likely not be a big part of his game, but any added value would be a bonus for his chances of making the 53-man roster.
- Wide receiver James Proche II exposed what looked to be a little miscommunication in the secondary for what would have been a long touchdown down the seam.