Lamar Jackson saw Tyler Huntley's talent years ago, when they faced each other in an epic South Florida high school playoff game.
Now Huntley is showing everyone. The question of whether Huntley is ready to be the Ravens' backup quarterback has been answered emphatically. Accounting for five touchdowns Saturday night, four with his arm and one with his legs, Huntley (24 for 33, 285 yards, 138.3 quarterback rating) led the Ravens to a 37-3 rout over Washington.
In his second season as an undrafted free agent from Utah, Huntley clearly belongs in the NFL, a duel-threat quarterback with poise and plenty of upside. The Ravens didn't sign a veteran quarterback this offseason, trusting Huntley and Trace McSorley to compete for the backup job. After McSorley suffered an unfortunate back injury several weeks ago, it gave Huntley even more opportunity to showcase his ability, and the young quarterback has seized the moment.
"He has played at a high level," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Couldn't do any more. He's learned every game. He's drawn [from] every game. The things he didn't do well the first game, he did better the second and did better the third game. Learned from his mistakes. It's been a great preseason for him."
Washington didn't play most of its defensive starters, so Huntley didn't have to worry about being chased by Chase Young or Montez Sweat. But by any measure, Huntley's performance was impressive. No quarterback is as elusive as Jackson, but Huntley is close.
"He went nuts, he went bananas, he lost his mind," wide receiver James Proche II said. "It just shows how deep we are. If would put a No. 8 on the back of his jersey, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference."
Huntley's ability to run, and to extend plays when chased from the pocket, makes him a perfect fit for a Baltimore offense that already fits a mobile quarterback. Should Jackson not be available at any point this season, the Ravens believe they can win games with Huntley.
"Tyler has shown that he can be very accurate, he can really run the offense well, inspire confidence among his teammates and he brings a really good athleticism, too," Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. "So, we don't have to reinvent our offense when he gets in there."
Huntley made several eye-opening plays Saturday, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Tomlinson in the second quarter. After being flushed out of the pocket, Huntley calmly rolled to his right and spotted Tomlinson, who was crossing over the middle. Throwing across his body, Huntley still got velocity on the ball and hit Tomlinson in stride for the score. Throwing passes off-script over the middle often gets young quarterbacks in trouble. But Huntley displayed his vision, agility and arm strength on that play, and the end result was a touchdown.
When Huntley and Jackson met as high school rivals, Huntley led his team to a wild 38-36 victory, and folks who saw the game still talk about it. Who would have thought that six years later, Jackson and Huntley would be teammates? They have become close friends, and when Huntley went off Saturday night, nobody was happier than Jackson.
"I'm glad I'm not playing against him," Jackson said. "I was cheering like a cheerleader. I just didn't have the pom poms. He was getting off."
Huntley isn't getting carried away with the praise, which is a reason he continues to improve. He has focused on getting better each day, learning the nuances of playing quarterback in the NFL.
"I still had some mess-ups," Huntley said. "Our main goal is to keep stacking each week and getting better. I feel like I did a good job getting better. Just getting those reps in the game - that gives you the comfort that you need."
Huntley watches Jackson in practice every day and sees a quarterback with a similar style who challenges defenses in a variety of ways. With Baltimore's preseason now over, Huntley will continue to watch and learn, and the Ravens know that if a situation arises where Jackson can't go, Huntley will be ready.
"He's been doing it all camp [and] all preseason, just making plays, extending plays [and] making the right throws," wide receiver Devin Duvernay said. "It's been exciting to watch him play. I'm super excited for his future."