Ravens quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn watches John Beck (12) and… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
At this point last year, the Ravens asked John Beck to re-learn Cam Cameron's offense in a span of a few months before training camp.
Now, the challenge has been heightened.
As the Ravens wrap up their second passing camp Thursday, Cameron said Beck "absolutely" has a shot at unseating Troy Smith as the team's No. 2 quarterback.
"John and Troy know they're competing," said Cameron, who enters his third season as the Ravens' offensive by coordinator. "They're good friends. They're workers. That's the way it is. I'm looking forward to training camp."
The Ravens' high expectations for Beck comes from his performance in the 2009 preseason finale in Atlanta, where he played the entire game and completed 16 of 28 passes for 232 yards.
Beck turned heads by driving the Ravens' second-team offense down the field against the Falcons' first-team defense, capping a length-of-the-field series with a 5-yard touchdown pass. On the Ravens' longest drive of the preseason (91 yards), Beck completed all five of his passes for 50 yards.
Still, he remained a third-string quarterback for the second straight season.
Asked if his goal was to become the Ravens' primary backup behind Joe Flacco, Beck said, "I'm playing in this league because somewhere I want to be a starter. Now, the situation here is this is Joe's team. So, the best I can be here is the backup. So, that's my goal here. But overall, I never lose sight of where I want to end up, and that's a starter."
Beck wasn't in a position to think about becoming the Ravens' primary backup last year. Signed last May after being cut by the Miami Dolphins, Beck's goal was to get familiar with new teammates as well as the Ravens' pass protection calls and route progressions.
But Beck has finally found a comfort zone. This marks the first time in his four-year NFL career that he is in the same offensive system in back-to-back seasons.
"It's definitely nice that everything I did last year, I am able to carry over to this year," Beck said. "Every aspect of the offense is second nature. It hasn't been broken up. Before the verbage I had for an offense never went longer than a few months."
This stability could go a long way in evening out Beck's game, or at least the Ravens hope so. There have been times when a couple of great throws have been followed by a couple of poor ones.
"John is a very talented guy," said Cameron, who was the Dolphins head coach when they drafted Beck in the second round. "We see flashes every day that get you excited. He just has to be able to put snaps on top of each other. Consistency is the key."
Beck, who turns 29 this summer, was one of the top quarterbacks coming out of college after throwing for 7,594 yards and 59 touchdowns in his final two seasons at BYU. He was the 40th player chosen in the 2007 draft and the fourth quarterback taken, after JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Kevin Kolb.
As a rookie, Beck lost all four of his starts midway through the Dolphins' then-winless season, throwing three interceptions and no touchdown passes. He fumbled seven times (losing five) and was sacked 10 times.
Does Cameron believe Beck could be a starter in the NFL again?
"There aren't many guys who succeed in this league in the wrong situation," he said. "In the right place, with talent around him, I think you could see him play like you saw him play in that last preseason game at Atlanta. I'm glad he's here."
Beck's competition is Smith, who was selected 134 spots after him in the 2007 draft. Smith has been the Ravens' No. 2 quarterback for the past two seasons, completing eight of 13 passes in relief work.
The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner said he welcomes the challenge from Beck.
"I think it's a tremendous situation for both of us, having an understanding that competition is going to get us — everybody on the field — to be their best," Smith said. "John is one of my great friends, and Joe is a great friend of mine, too. We have an understanding. We know what our niche is here, and everybody is fitting in, having fun."