OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Four weeks ago in a 16-13 victory in Chicago, Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley shook hands with quarterbacks coach James Urban on the sideline, just moments after he had led a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive in his first NFL start.
Huntley thanked Urban for staying on the phone with him toward the end of the seventh round of the 2020 draft and immediately offering him a spot on the Ravens after he went undrafted.
"I know when I see it, man,” Urban told Huntley.
In a span of 19 months, Huntley has gone from being an undrafted rookie out of Utah who was Baltimore’s No. 4 quarterback to possibly starting an important game in December with playoff implications on the line. Barring an improvement with Lamar Jackson’s sprained right ankle, Huntley is expected to start Sunday, when the AFC North-leading Ravens (8-5) play host to the NFC-leading Green Bay Packers (10-3) at M&T Bank Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).
Over the past week, Ravens players and coaches have expressed their high level of belief in Huntley -- not only to win games but to change the perception that Baltimore is more than the 2019 NFL MVP.
"When [Jackson] goes down or anything, [for] a lot of people, a lot of question marks go up in the air of if this offense can still run without him,” Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman said. "But I think [Huntley] comes in and proves to us that we’re not just a one-man show; we’re a team, and we can still operate at a high level.”
Like Jackson, Huntley can beat defenses with his legs as well as his arm. He gets rid of the ball quickly against the blitz, and he isn’t afraid to throw the ball deep downfield where his wide receivers can make contested catches. If no one is open, Huntley can make defenders miss in the open field.
Still, the most impressive thing about Huntley has been his composure, which has been tested early and often. As a rookie, Huntley replaced a concussed Jackson at the start of the fourth quarter of a divisional playoff game in Buffalo and didn’t flinch, totaling 92 yards (60 passing, 32 rushing).
This season, Huntley’s first career start came in Week 11, when he didn’t know he was going to start until 90 minutes before kickoff. In filling in for an ill Jackson, Huntley converted a third-and-12 with a 29-yard pass to Sammy Watkins, which set up the winning score with 22 seconds remaining.
Why does Huntley never seem to be fazed by the pressure?
"Football is football,” Huntley said. "That’s the only answer I can give you."
Then, in Sunday’s 24-22 loss in Cleveland, Huntley took over for an injured Jackson and nearly rallied Baltimore from a 21-point deficit.
"You don’t see any nervousness about him,” Ravens outside linebacker Justin Houston said. "He makes some plays. He’s putting us in great situations. He’s showed that he can be a starter in this game. He definitely has the skill set, and I definitely believe in him.”
In the 2020 draft, NFL teams showed no faith in Huntley despite his 23-10 record at Utah. In his final season there, he threw 19 touchdown passes and four interceptions, becoming the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.
But his dual-threat style didn’t fit many teams. Huntley watched 13 quarterbacks get drafted, but nearly half of them are already gone from their original teams (four are on different teams and two are out of the league).
Huntley quickly moved up the Ravens’ depth chart after Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley got injured toward the end of last season. He then beat out McSorley to become Jackson’s top backup this season.
Now, Huntley could make another start for a Ravens team looking to hold on to first place in the AFC North and make a run at the postseason.
"This is where I’m supposed to be,” Huntley said. "Everything happens for a reason."