Josh Johnson, not Ryan Mallett, could be the backup to quarterback Joe Flacco this season.
Johnson has turned the Ravens’ No. 2 quarterback spot into a battle, not a forgone conclusion. That’s from coach John Harbaugh, who made it clear after Saturday night’s 19-18 preseason victory over the Colts that Johnson and Mallett were competing for the job. Johnson sparkled against the Colts as both a thrower (11 for 16, 72 yards, one touchdown) and as a runner (five carries, 40 yards).
“You look at the two-minute drive at the end of the half, he (Johnson) just operated it really efficiently,” Harbaugh said. “He got us to the line, he got the plays called, got everybody in the right spot, made throws. Then later in the game, guys got covered a little bit more, he was able to find space in the pocket and protect the football while he did it and used his legs to make plays. Critical third downs. Close the game out. I just thought he was very poised. He was very accurate with his throws. He is making a case to make this team. There is a competition for that spot. It’s been ongoing through training camp.”
Harbaugh pointed out that he was also pleased with Mallett’s performance (6 for 8, 47 yards, one touchdown) against the Colts. But Johnson’s superior mobility could tip the competition in his direction.
“Just being smart about it, and taking advantage of the scramble opportunities,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re trying to do is move the chains. If I can do that with my legs, it’s just an added dimension to the offense.”
It would be an upset for Johnson to emerge as the backup, because has not thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2011, and has been a career journeyman at age 30. Mallett is younger (28) and started the last two games in 2015 when Flacco was injured.
It is unlikely the Ravens will keep three quarterbacks, so the stakes are high. However, Johnson’s experience allows him to approach the competition with maturity, which is bringing out his best.
“That’s really up to the coaches,” Johnson said, regarding his thoughts on the competition. “My job is to go out there and put it on tape, and to show this team that if they need me, I’ll be there, and I’ll be ready.”
Johnson has looked ready. The Johnson-Mallett competition will be interesting to watch the remainder of the preseason.