What Mink Thinks: Tyler Huntley's Hot Hand Has Created a Tough Decision


Make no mistake. There is no quarterback controversy in Baltimore.

If he's totally healthy and ready to play Sunday in Cincinnati, Lamar Jackson should be the starter.

However, if Jackson's ankle isn't 100% for Sunday's game, the Ravens have a tough decision to make. How close to healthy does Jackson have to be to give him the nod? Or do they ride Tyler Huntley's hot hand in what's essentially a must-win game?

If Huntley has proven anything in his three games and two starts this season, it's that the Ravens are not a one-man show. They can win without Jackson.

Huntley proved that with a win in Chicago when he found out a couple hours before kickoff that he was going to be the starter. He showed it with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes.

Huntley showed it again with 19 straight points to give the Browns a major scare in a 24-22 loss that came down to the wire.

And then Huntley had his best showing yet with a four-touchdown gem against a good Green Bay Packers defense. The Ravens have been injury ravaged all year, but it hit a new low last Sunday. Going toe to toe with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, Huntley almost pulled off the upset of all upsets.

There's no denying that the Ravens offense has operated better the past couple weeks with Huntley under center. He's getting rid of the ball faster, seemingly more decisive as a passer and a runner than Jackson was for the past few games before his ankle injury.

For whatever reasons, Jackson often didn't look comfortable under center since a blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers two months ago. The offensive line issues seemed to take a toll and the Miami Dolphins' relentless blitzing opened a floodgate of pressure that Jackson didn't counterpunch.

Perhaps it was Jackson trying to do too much, trying to carry a limping offense like he had over the first month-and-a-half, especially in wins over the Chiefs and Colts. But the more Huntley plays, and the better the Ravens offense looks with him under center, the more it shows that maybe Jackson didn't have the offense totally on his back after all.

For all the heat Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has taken in recent weeks, his scheme looked pretty effective in the second half in Cleveland and against a Green Bay defense that entered the week ranked sixth in the league. Mark Andrews seems to have the same elite connection with Huntley that he does with Jackson, as the tight end has had back-to-back monster games.

It's an adage that's as old as time that the quarterback gets too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. Jackson's responsibility for both the hot start and recent cold shower is probably somewhere in between.

I have no doubt that Jackson can and will dig out of his slump and return to being the same superstar quarterback we've seen over the past three-plus seasons. The 2019 MVP has proven his talent time and time again, and this year slayed more narratives, such as his ability to lead comeback wins with his arm.

He's grown and adapted his game over his young career, shown earlier this season when he had more confidence behind his offensive line and was slinging the ball downfield at a league-leading clip with improved mechanics. Jackson showed quite a few flashes early this season of what he can be as a passer, and there's still clearly room for improvement.

But right now isn't about the future. Heading into Cincinnati, the Ravens need a win and they need it in the worst way. If the Ravens snap a three-game losing skid and beat the Bengals, Baltimore is back in strong position to win the division and make the playoffs.

Which quarterback gives them the best chance Sunday? There is no medical instrument you can stick under a player's tongue that tells you what "percentage" they are. Will Jackson's ankle be 75% … 90% … 99.5%? Nobody knows.

Ultimately, Jackson will have to make the call on whether he feels well enough to play. And the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh will take that information and weigh how effective they believe Jackson will be given the circumstances against how well Huntley has performed in relief.

Asked Monday how difficult of a decision he expects it will be, Harbaugh said, "That's a good question, but it's hard to answer because there's no definitive formula there."

Last week, Roman said the decision could go down to the wire, meaning if Jackson woke up Sunday morning well enough to play, he would suit up. After the way Huntley played, that doesn't seem to be the case this week.

"We're just going to have to see where we're at with all factors," Harbaugh said. "That's how you do it. You have to take everything into account and see where you feel best about going forward – practice time, health-wise and all those things. That's really all you can do, just go with what you feel like is best and how the guys are doing."

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