There are rare occasions where teams are not afraid to be ambitious with what they allow or ask a player to do. These are usually late-round picks, players without a clear guaranteed path to a roster spot. Players with well-rounded skillsets can improve their chances of making the roster by being able to do a number of things.
We have already seen the Pittsburgh Steelers tinker with that this year. They drafted Sutton Smith to play outside linebacker in the sixth round, but they have also been giving him a look at fullback. And they are not the only AFC North team broadening a player’s resume this spring.
The Baltimore Ravens used a late-round pick to bring in Trace McSorley, ostensibly at quarterback, but even when they initially drafted him, they never placed a limit on what he might be asked to do. Special teams work, and even a possible role on defense, were talked about in reference to the Penn State graduate.
According to the team’s website, they have already begun to do that. He has spent the past several weeks returning punts through OTAs and minicamp. When is the last time that a quarterback was also a returner prior to Taysom Hill last year with the New Orleans Saints? Only Joe Webb and Brad Smith have done it more than once since Vince Evans in 1977. Hill returned 14 kicks last season for a 24.9-yard average.
“It’s been fun”, McSorley said about working in the return game this spring. “It’s been a really good transition. It’s a new challenge for me, something that I hadn’t really done, so it was interesting to be able to come in and learn and try and prove myself in a different way that I can get on the field and make an impact”.
McSorley was drafted largely because he fits the mold of what they are looking for at quarterback with Lamar Jackson as the starter. The Ravens have refitted their offense to work around Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses, so they needed quarterbacks who are also capable of running it.
That meant Joe Flacco had to go—not that he wouldn’t have gone anyway—but they also re-signed Robert Griffin III, who was the number three quarterback last year, and who will be the number two this year. They want to carry three quarterbacks, and to help that happen, they are giving McSorley as many ways to make the team as possible.
“I think it’s been a good transition, it’s had its ups and downs obviously with the first couple times doing it, but it’s going well”, he said of his special teams work. “I’m looking forward to being able to come out and do anything that I can, especially in the special teams aspect, to help the team. I want to prove myself there”.