At the moment, nobody appears to know who the Baltimore Ravens’ starting quarterback is going to be on Sunday in their pivotal divisional matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. It could be any of the three on the roster, entering a game that could draw them even for second place in the division and keep their wildcard hopes alive.
The reason that there is a question, of course, is due to the fact that starter Joe Flacco is dealing with a hip injury that he suffered early in the Ravens’ loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Baltimore has been on their bye week, but it’s still not clear if he will be ready to play.
Head Coach John Harbaugh, who has been publicly relishing the coverage of the confusion at the position at the moment, has said that Flacco does not need to practice this week in order to play, but it is notable that he was not a participant yesterday. Outside of a season-ending knee injury, he has only missed four practices in his NFL career, and otherwise never missed a game.
Should he be unable to go, the team has two options, between game-day active backup Lamar Jackson, the rookie first-round pick who is considered developmental but who has been given an active role in the offense, or veteran Robert Griffin III, who was out of football in 2017 but who impressed them during the preseason this year.
Both reserve quarterbacks have expressed confidence in their ability to run the offense, though Griffin’s veteran status might be the more favorable against a Bengals defense who might be getting some injured starters back and who has routinely played the Ravens well.
“My job to make sure I’m always ready”, he told reporters during yesterday’s practice. “Whether that’s during practice, after practice, maximizing the reps that I do get. Making sure after practice I’m getting the things I need if I am called upon that week to play. That’s why they brought me here. They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be”.
Still, he added that he hasn’t been content sitting on the bench. “I think if I was OK not playing, then I wouldn’t be the competitor that I’ve grown to be”, he admitted. “I earned that right by the way I came back and played after being out of football for a year. I think the guys recognize that, the coaches definitely recognize that. Throughout the weeks, I’ve just had to make sure I don’t lose that edge”.
Even if Griffin starts, Jackson would still figure to have an active role in the offense, and likely an even bigger one than he normally would. But he believes that he is prepared to take on a full game’s worth of work.
He said of his progression since the preseason, “my balls were horrible. I was throwing a lot of ducks. I was getting accustomed to that ball, that’s all. It’s different from college to the NFL pigskin”. Now that he has some tangible NFL success under his belt, he is ready to take the next step, one that is already seen as an eventual inevitability: starting games.