If you ask any Ravens fan what the biggest fight this week is, they might respond “Mallett vs. Woodrum”, not “McGregor vs. Mayweather”. The Ravens have a lot to look forward to this season with a return to a tried and true offensive scheme and a defense ready to prove they can be legendary. However, one question overshadows all of these exciting elements to the 2017 Ravens: what are we going to do about our backup quarterback position? Let’s see if we can make an attempt to settle this discussion once and for all.
I think all Raven’s fans will agree that if Joe Flacco is not playing this season due to whatever injury he may face, the season is probably a wash. We want Flacco, our elite dragon, the fu manchu that was promised. If we can’t have him, then the Raven’s front office will surely look for an outside option to fill the starting role. Neither Ryan Mallett nor Josh Woodrum are serviceable as a starting quarterback as it stands. That’s not what the discussion is about though. The discussion is about who we think is going to best utilize the backup quarterback position!
Let’s outline the purpose of a second string quarterback. It’s a valuable position and should be treated as such. It’s a backup role unlike any other on a football team outside of special teams. For most backup roles you must have valuable depth to provide breathers for starters while also maintaining a reasonable level of play when those backups come in. But that’s not the purpose of the backup quarterback position. The purpose for a backup quarterback is either developing a player that will eventually be your quarterback of the future or developing a player for trade potential. Ryan Mallett doesn’t fit the ballot for either of those; Josh Woodrum does.
If the above is not enough to convince you Woodrum should be our backup for 2017 season, then let’s try looking at tangible and intangible evidence.
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WHAT WE CAN MEASURE: Josh Woodrum
Looking just at the 2017 preseason, Josh Woodrum has played well. Very well. Though we all know the preseason can’t provide a perfect prediction of how someone will perform in the regular season, it can give a quick glimpse into someone’s potential. The coaches know this and so should we.
Woodrum has put up some solid numbers these past two weeks. He’s thrown 195 yards with an 85 percent completion rate over two games. Not only is he doing well in the air, he’s also showing he can play with his legs. For example, he’s put up a modest 30 rushing yards on 8 attempts. All these stats look promising, illustrating Woodrum’s potential as a quarterback.
But any NFL quarterback could put up numbers like this in preseason. There are other numbers we can use to show how well Woodum is playing. For example, Woodrum has had 0 sacks, 0 interceptions, and 7 first downs in the 14 pass attempts he’s made these two games. Clearly, Woodrum is showing that he can play with poise and has solid decision-making capabilities by his ability to play a clean game. When the running game doesn’t move the chains, Woodrum is stepping up to make it happen.
Despite these impressive stats, many discredit Woodrum’s performance over the last few weeks. They claim that because he’s competing against other team’s backups, these stats aren’t as impressive as they may seem. However, what they fail to recognize is that Woodrum is also competing with his own team’s backups. This is a level playing field and Woodrum is playing a step above it.
WHAT WE CAN MEASURE: Ryan Mallett
This preseason, Ryan Mallett has taken just about all his snaps against opposing team’s starters and has not looked so great. This isn’t a surprise. When given the opportunity, Mallett has never looked that great as a starter and being in his seventh year in the NFL, you still see the same mistakes that he was making in college. He has inconsistent accuracy and poor decision making. You can’t blame it on him being a rookie anymore.
You could look at Mallett’s stats in previous years to validate this inaccuracy and poor decision making, but let’s just take a look at the two preseason games. Mallett has put up a 55 percent completion rate over 40 attempts for 171 yards. He is only moving the chains on 27 percent of his attempts, has taken a sack and has had two interceptions.
I don’t think the stats here show the entire story, but it does emphasize the point that Mallett isn’t going to win us games. He clearly can’t play as a starter based off the stats provided from preseason or his entire career when given the chance. Being in his seventh year, he still struggles to perform well. If he isn’t going to be serviceable as a starter and he is already past the point of being a suitable candidate to be developed into an eventual starter or provide trade potential, so why keep him?
WHAT WE CAN’T MEASURE: Josh Woodrum
If we gave Woodrum a chance to develop, maybe he could be our next starter, maybe he could develop into talent we can trade, or maybe he doesn’t develop into anything and we find another talent to replace him.
Despite the risk that every NFL team faces when developing talent, Woodrum is someone the Ravens could safely take that chance on. He’s hungry and he’ll eat cheap too. He barely hits 500k of our salary cap. This is a young quarterback who is looking for a team to give him a chance so he can prove what he has. Woodrum is looking for his opportunity and still has a lot of years ahead of him. He can spend that entire time developing into the possibility of good or great quarterback.
WHAT WE CAN’T MEASURE: Ryan Mallett
Mallett, on the other hand, is starting his seventh year in the NFL. He’s wasted every opportunity he has had to develop into an asset, evident by his continued lack of performance. Mallett continues to be haunted by the same issues he had as a Razorback in his college days. He also seems content with his mediocre performance. Mallett doesn’t seem to have the drive needed to develop into a starting caliber quarterback, if it was there, in the seven years he’s been given opportunities to prove himself, he would of taken advantage of it.
Mallet also hits the Ravens salary cap at two million dollars. So what are the Ravens getting by paying two million dollars to a player that isn’t going to win them games, isn’t going to develop into a starter, or isn’t going to develop into trade equity?
SO WHAT NOW?
The coaches see more than we do, this is true, but maybe the coaches and front office need to follow the example of other teams utilizing the backup quarterback position. We’re looking at you, Patriots. They can even look back to the start of the decade. From 2011-2014, Tyrod Taylor filled the backup role perfectly for the Ravens. We developed him into starter talent. It’s unfortunate that the Ravens weren’t able to capitalize on Taylor’s ability through trade, but that doesn’t discredit the overall process of developing young quarterbacks.
We again have a chance in 2017 to use the backup quarterback role for its true purpose: developing talent. Whether that be for the eventual replacement of our beloved Flacco or to fetch some trade in the market, developing young talent in the place of the backup quarterback position is the best option. Ryan Mallett accomplishes neither trade value or the potential to be a starting caliber player. He also isn’t going to win us games immediately either. Josh Woodrum, though, can possibly fulfill those desires we should be looking for in a backup. I’m not saying he will fulfill that potential, but we should be utilizing that position for its actual purpose instead of wasting it away on a player who will not offer us anything down the road.
As Raven fans, we have an exciting season ahead of us. We know one thing for sure – without Flacco, this team isn’t going to live up to its full potential. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean throwing in the towel. We should keep one eye toward the future and never waste the opportunity to develop our next great talent. I’ve got my eye on Woodrum.