With his friend Lamar Jackson watching on the sidelines, Tyler Huntley played almost the entire game Saturday night and led the Ravens to victory.
Engineering two touchdown drives in the second half, Huntley (24 for 34, 187 yards, one interception) recovered from a slow start as Baltimore captured its 19th consecutive preseason victory, 20-3, over the Carolina Panthers.
For the second straight week, Jackson did not play after participating in pregame warmups, and the Ravens' preseason finale is next weekend against Washington. It remains to be seen if Jackson will see any action before the regular-season opener Sept. 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. But Huntley received valuable reps and took another step toward being Jackson's backup this year.
"Lamar, he wants to win every time he steps on the field," Huntley said. "I'm right behind him. I want to follow in those footsteps. Whatever it takes for us to win, that's what we're going to do."
Harbaugh was pleased with the work Jackson got during two joint practices against the Panthers this week, and the 24-year-old quarterback has thrown the ball well since missing the first 10 days of training camp (Reserve/COVID-19).
"Lamar had a really excellent two days – excellent," Harbaugh said Thursday.
The decision to keep Jackson on the sideline was not a surprise, partly because he would not have been throwing to his top targets. Wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, Miles Boykin and Deon Cain were out of the lineup, as was tight end Mark Andrews.
Brown and Boykin are recovering from hamstring injuries. Bateman will be out until at least September following groin surgery, and Andrews sat out Saturday after receiving medical attention for severe cramping at the end of Thursday's joint practice.
Meanwhile, the starting offensive line got Kevin Zeitler back, but is still not intact. All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley did not play Saturday although he participated in part of Thursday's practice. Stanley is coming off season-ending ankle surgery and the Ravens want to avoid any setbacks prior to Week 1. The competition for the starting job at left guard still looks unsettled, as neither rookie Ben Cleveland or Tyre Phillips played on Saturday. Ben Powers started at left guard and played the first half before giving way to Foster Sarell in the second half.
With quarterback Trace McSorley expected to be out weeks with a back injury, Huntley took advantage of his opportunity and kept his poise after a rough start. His first pass of the game was deflected by defensive tackle Derrick Brown and intercepted by linebacker Haasan Reddick. But after missing on his first four attempts, Huntley made a 10-yard completion to tight end Josh Oliver for a first down, and from there Huntley took off.
Adversity doesn't seem to rattle Huntley, which has impressed the coaching staff in his quest to be Jackson's backup. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the preseason being cancelled in 2020, robbing Huntley of valuable experience as a rookie. But playing almost the entire game Saturday gave Huntley a chance to find a rhythm in game conditions. Huntley completed 15 of 16 passes during one stretch, and he also rushed for 23 yards on seven carries.
"We just continued our drives," Huntley said. "I kind of knew I was going to play a lot. I haven't really played a full game in a couple of years. It's good that I got some quarters behind me. I didn't even know I was 0-for-4. I just knew I needed to complete some passes."
The Ravens aren't showing opponents much offensive variety during preseason games, but that will change once the regular season begins. Running back Gus Edwards believes Jackson will be ready to roll, and Edwards liked what he saw from Baltimore's passing attack during the joint practices.
"I think our passing game got a lot better during the week," Edwards said. "I feel like Lamar had a lot of good connections with some of the receivers, and it seemed like they were on the same page this week."