BALTIMORE — The quarterback-wide receiver relationship between rookies Trace McSorley and Miles Boykin was established before the former college standouts were ever drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
The athletic pass catcher from Notre Dame, who the Ravens traded up to take in the third round, and the versatile signal caller from Penn State, who Baltimore selected three rounds later, spent time together prior to the April draft preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
I think me and Miles have a really good connection. I got to know him a little bit while we were training for the Combine, and that’s probably where our connection started up,” explained McSorley, who sits third on the Ravens’ quarterback depth chart. “ We talk about all the time — if you give him an opportunity, he’s going to make a play for you.”
That connection was on full display during the second quarter of Thursday’s 29-0 preseason victory over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. In a game largely featuring reserve players, McSorley targeted Boykin on four consecutive plays over two straight series, the first resulting in an interception and the final ending in a touchdown that was later wiped out by a holding call against left tackle Greg Senat.
While the Ravens eventually settled for a 45-yard field goal by Kaare Vedvik, the two enjoyed celebrating the near-touchdown, with McSorley throwing up his hands in elation and Boykin simultaneously getting bull-rushed by his teammates.
“It was just a go route. Trace had a great ball. A great ball. He put it in the area where I was able to catch it and make a play on it,” said Boykin, who hauled in the throw over top undrafted rookie cornerback Tae Hayes. “It unfortunately got called back, but those are reps you can’t give back — especially in the preseason.”
Boykin is making up for lost time after missing out on Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp with a hamstring strain. McSorley is finding himself thrust into a larger role following a training camp injury to No. 2 quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The rookie tandem combined for three catches on seven targets for 38 yards in their professional debuts.
“Miles is a guy, you give him an opportunity, you give him a chance, he’ll make a play for you,” McSorley said. “We had a couple. We were a little bit off early on in the drives, but then we were able to catch our stride on that one drive.”
Boykin ended the evening with four catches for 39 yards, while McSorley completed 9-of-22 passes for 85 yards and added three carries for 16 yards.
“I thought Trace played well and with a lot of poise, and Boykin was making plays,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “Even the touchdown that got called back, [Boykin] had a great play.”
All three straight completions to Boykin also went in the direction of Hayes, who had intercepted McSorley on the previous possession.
The interception came on an all-out blitz, resulting in Jacksonville’s only defensive turnover of the evening.
“I think that’s kind of football. Not everything’s going to go your way. You have to be able to bounce back and focus on the next one. Twenty-five seconds later they’re re-spotting and you have to get the next snap off. That’s part of the game,” McSorley observed. “There’s going to be some you missed. Obviously, you want to learn from them. That’s something we’ll be able to big time from this [game]. Coach Harbaugh talks about it. Just taking in stride from this game to the next game.”
Boykin’s first catch of the day came from starter Lamar Jackson. He was also the intended target on the next play, but the ball was placed just behind the receiver and the rookie wideout failed to haul in the pass.
“I gotta do better. I gotta go out there and have better games. I left a couple plays out there, but other than that, I thought we were very efficient and headed in the right direction,” Boykin said. “As a receiver, it happens. You’re going to drop some balls. You’d rather not have it at all, but you’re going to be defined by what you do on your next snap, not the snap before. For me it was just going out there, and the coaches having faith in me and the quarterbacks having faith in me to keep throwing me the ball. I was able to make some plays later in the game.”
McSorley led the Ravens on a pair of scoring drives, following up the 45-yard field goal with another 25-yarder from Vedek on the first possession of the third quarter.
The quarterback threw for a pair of first downs on the drive and converted another on a physical, 6-yard run that ended with a spin across the marker — a typical McSorley-type possession that was common for him at Penn State, where his versatility made him one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects. As a senior in Happy Valley, he threw for 2,530 yards and 18 touchdowns and added another 798 yards on the ground with 12 scores.
“I felt good. It was a real good learning experience. I made a few throws, missed a couple. It’s one of those things where you look at the tape, really learn from and take strides on,” McSorley said. “There’s going to be a lot for us to learn, so I’m looking forward to getting into the tape and being able to take that, take the coaching from there and be able to improve in the next week.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig