Yes, you read that right. That is indeed the current state of the Baltimore Ravens quarterback situation. What a season it has been.
With three games to go and officially out of the playoff race, there really is nothing to play for. No rightful-minded fan would root for the Ravens to lose, but at the same time, losing out could be a blessing in disguise from a draft perspective.
Despite the grim outlook for the final three games (vs Kansas City, vs Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati), the Ravens still have to field a team and compete. Keeping the combating factors in mind, the Ravens must try their hardest to win, and that begins with the quarterback situation.
On the surface, all three quarterbacks are not good, and quite frankly, it is best if none of the three return to the team next season. But for now, someone has to start, and based on Sunday’s performance against the Seattle Seahawks, Clausen should be the team’s top choice for the remainder of the season.
For perhaps no reason other than familiarity with the offense, Clausen gives offensive coordinator Marc Trestman the most options to work with. During Schaub’s two starts, the offense was limited by a slew of dink-and-dunk plays, opening up the ever-potent chance for a classic Schaub pick-six.
As for Mallett, he has not been with the team long enough to predict his outlook, but based on a failed stint in Houston, it would not be a safe bet to guarantee he could outplay Clausen or Schaub.
What Clausen brings that Schaub does not is an ability to attack downfield. Despite a pedestrian performance of 23/40, 274 yards and an interception in his Ravens debut, Clausen repeatedly tested the “Legion of Boom” with deep throws, opening up the offense in a way Schaub never seemed to.
Let’s take a look at how Clausen’s arm expanded Baltimore’s passing game.
Trestman was not afraid to let Clausen drop back in shotgun and spread the field out. Here, he has four receivers out wide.
All four receivers take off downfield, and the running back stays in for pass protection. The slot receivers – Jeremy Butler and Daniel Brown – both take off down the seam, with Chris Givens and Kamar Aiken running underneath toward the sideline.
As the play opens up, Clausen has two options: Butler or Brown. The decision that has to be made here is which one to take a chance on in the middle of the field. With the free safety closer to Butler than Brown, Clausen correctly chooses the proper option.
A slightly underthrown ball still makes it to Brown in time for a 30+ yard gain on the play.
Sending multiple receivers downfield simply was not a regular option for the offense with Schaub in charge. Clausen’s arm is not notably strong in comparison to other NFL quarterbacks, but in comparison to his current competition, Schaub, it is certainly stronger. Likewise, Clausen possesses the ability to properly diagnose the secondary downfield on deep throws.
This was evident again with the same four-receiver set. The only difference this time is Clausen is in an empty gun with his running back in the slot.
This time, Butler and Brown take the outside route, while Givens and Aiken work down the inside seam.
As Brown is covered on the right side, Clausen turns his attention toward the left side of the field, where Givens has attracted the attention of the outside cornerback. This opens up a free route for Butler down the sideline.
Clausen recognizes the play and hits an open Butler for a 20+ yard gain. He is slightly late on the throw, but still gets the job done.
This should not be interpreted as a testament to how good Clausen is as a whole, but rather to the fact that he gives the Ravens the best chance to win right now. Given his circumstances – little preparation and putrid offensive line play – Clausen played rather admirably against Seattle and deserves to be the starter as the Ravens finish out the season.