The Baltimore Ravens turned a new leaf with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, so when they selected fellow dual-threat quarterback Trace McSorley with their final pick in the 2019 NFL draft, it raised a few eyebrows.
The team has no plan to unseat Jackson, but they do want to use McSorley in creative ways. During OTAs and rookie minicamp, the Ravens tried out McSorley at punt returner — a position he never played at Penn State.
“It's something that's a new challenge for me, something that I hadn't really had never done,” McSorley said on the Ravens’ Final Drive podcast. “So it's just something interesting to be able to come in and learn and try and prove myself in a different way that I can be able to get on the field and make an impact.”
McSorley has always been versatile; in high school he was listed as an athlete rather than a dual-threat quarterback. The four-year college starter doesn’t want to give up on being a passer — he turned down a chance to work out as a defensive back before the draft — but this would give him an opportunity to see the field.
Last month, head coach John Harbaugh hinted at using McSorley creatively, like how the New Orleans Saints have used jack-of-all-trades backup Taysom Hill. There’s even been talk of using two-quarterback sets. However, even the Saints haven’t tried out Hill at punt returner, so it may be a steep learning curve for McSorley.
“It's been interesting,” McSorley said. “It's had its ups and downs, obviously the first couple times doing it, but it's going well. I'm looking forward to be able to come out and do anything that I can, especially in the special teams aspect for the team. I want to prove myself there.”
Could McSorley be the Ravens’ Julian Edelman?
Plenty of college quarterbacks have had to transition to another position; some even said Jackson should be a wide receiver. However, not many have been successful.
One of the most well-known former college quarterbacks is Julian Edelman, who immediately transitioned to slot receiver and return man for the New England Patriots. While McSorley isn’t being asked to split out wide, he does have plenty in common with the former Kent State signal-caller.
Like McSorley (6-foot-1, 201), Edelman (5-foot-10, 198) was an undersized dual-threat dual-threat QB taken at the end of the draft. Both players rushed for at least a dozen touchdowns as a senior, although Edelman has a slight edge in career rushing (2,483 to 1,697).
Trying McSorley out at punt returner is quite the roll of the dice, but with Robert Griffin III also on the roster, his health as a backup quarterback isn’t of the upmost importance. The Ravens do still have Cyrus Jones, who finished second in the league with a 14.4 yard average on returns last year, so McSorley may be more of an insurance policy, but using his athleticism could be a key to unlocking a high-upside offense.
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