Around this time last season, Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley were battling to be the Ravens’ backup quarterback. Huntley eventually won the job and appeared in seven games for injured starter Lamar Jackson, nearly helping Baltimore secure a playoff spot. McSorley, meanwhile, was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad in November by the Arizona Cardinals.
During the Ravens’ 24-17 preseason victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night at State Farm Field, their paths crossed again — this time as starting quarterbacks. But just like last year’s competition, Huntley once again came out on top.
Huntley, who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent before the 2020 season, completed 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Isaiah Likely that gave the Ravens a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter. With starter Kyler Murray and veteran backup Colt McCoy sidelined, McSorley, the Ravens’ sixth-round pick out of Penn State in 2019, played most of the game, finishing 18-for-34 for 229 yards with two interceptions and a rushing touchdown.
“I thought [Huntley] played masterfully in the first half, running the offense and the passing game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Huntley’s highlight-reel performance featured two plays that showed why he is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. As the Ravens faced second-and-9 in the middle of the first quarter, Huntley escaped pressure before rolling out to the left and completing a pass to Likely, who broke a few tackles for a 20-yard gain.
On the same drive, Huntley once again watched the pocket collapse as he scrambled toward the sideline before throwing the ball across his body to undrafted rookie receiver Makai Polk, who was wide open in the middle of the field. The 19-yard gain led to a 29-yard field goal for Justin Tucker and drew smiles on the sideline from Harbaugh and Jackson.
“I think the experience definitely plays a part in it,” said Huntley, who went 1-3 in his four starts last season but showed impressive command of the offense. “Just going on my third year, I’ve seen a couple [of] different defenses, and I’ve got a great feel for the offense right now, and I’m just taking what the defense gives me, and it’s continuing to work time after time.”
Through two preseason games, Huntley has almost as many passing touchdowns (two) as incompletions (three).
“The way that he’s operating the offense, communication has been really good,” Harbaugh said. “He’s getting out and scrambling and making plays with his feet and keeping the defense on us that way.”
Even though he threw interceptions to Ravens cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Damarion “Pepe” Williams, McSorley had his moments Sunday. Near the end of the first half, he threw a 23-yard pass to receiver Victor Bolden before connecting with Greg Dortch for a 34-yard completion that set up a 21-yard field goal.
In the fourth quarter, McSorley caught the Ravens’ defense off guard when he ran into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, which cut the Cardinals’ deficit to 24-10 with 8:29 to go. The call came from Murray, who took over play-calling duties from coach Kliff Kingsbury late in the second half and helped Arizona engineer two touchdown drives to put the Ravens’ NFL-record 22-game preseason winning streak in jeopardy.
After the game, McSorley met Jackson at midfield to catch up with his former teammate and take photos.
“There were some times when I passed up [No.] 1 or [No.] 2 in the progression, trying to get something a little farther down the field or trying to make something happen,” McSorley told reporters. “I’ll go back and watch the tape. I’ll judge myself harder than anyone.”