The start of Ryan Mallett's training camp this year was a little underwhelming.
Baltimore's backup quarterback was inconsistent and off target during the first couple weeks of practice, leading to some questioning among pundits as to whether he would hold onto the job behind starter Joe Flacco.
But Mallett seemed to turn it around over the last few days, which he illustrated in a strong preseason debut Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
"Ryan did a really good job, I thought he played well, probably better than he has in practice in some ways," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Mallett got the start as the Ravens decided to give Flacco more time to recover from last season's torn ACL. He played the entire first half and was able to move the offense in his five series of work.
The Ravens scored a pair of touchdowns with Mallett at the helm, and he completed 11-of-15 passes for 91 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The interception also wasn't Mallett's fault, as it bounced off the chest of tight end Darren Waller before Carolina picked it off.
"I think it is just getting more comfortable, kind of knowing what is going to be called and knowing my personnel better," Mallett said about turning his performances around. "I'm getting a lot of reps, especially in camp, and then coming out here getting the start … It is just slowing the game down and finding the open guy."
Mallett and the Ravens relied on a strong running game and a quick-strike passing offense to move the ball. Mallett might have one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but his longest pass of the day was a 19-yard completion on a screen pass that running back Buck Allen took for a touchdown.
Mallett showed a strong grasp of the system, and has talked throughout the summer about how he has a much better understanding of the offense compared to last year when he was thrust into action just a couple weeks after signing with the Ravens. He was quick with his decision making, and even moved outside the pocket to extend plays with feet when needed.
"I have wheels right?" he joked about his 8-yard scramble for a first down. "It took about the whole quarter for me to get it, but I got it eventually."
While Mallett played well, third-string quarterback Josh Johnson also kept the pressure on him with the way he performed in the second half. Johnson made plays with his arm and feet, completing 8-of-11 passes for 83 yards, and also scrambling three times for 17 yards.
"Josh Johnson came in and played well," Harbaugh said. "He made a bunch of plays, had a couple of scoring drives, completed passes."
The Ravens have kept only one backup behind Flacco for virtually his entire career, and that will likely be the case again this season. Mallett has the edge on the backup job, and he's focused on holding onto it over the next few preseason contests.
"I have to continue to do that consistently and just make plays," he said.