With Lamar Jackson dealing with an ankle injury and Tyler Huntley recently testing positive for COVID-19, the Ravens will rely on third-string quarterback Josh Johnson to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with the AFC North title hanging in the balance.
A fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2008 NFL draft, Johnson was signed by the Ravens off the New York Jets’ practice squad two weeks ago as an insurance policy after Jackson suffered an ankle sprain in a Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Johnson will be one of two healthy quarterbacks suiting up for the Ravens on Sunday. With practice squad quarterback Chris Streveler added to the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, the Ravens signed and activated former Calvert Hall star Kenji Bahar from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
Johnson’s start comes at a critical time for the Ravens (8-6), who would have an 80% chance of making the playoffs if they defeat the Bengals (8-6), according to Football Outsiders, and just a 24% chance if they do not.
The 35-year-old Johnson is a journeyman, playing for 13 teams throughout his NFL career, including a stint with the Ravens during training camp in 2016. He has completed 177 of 313 passes (56.5%) for 1,966 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 36 career games, going 1-7 as a starter. Johnson also played in the United Football League, the XFL and the Alliance of American Football.
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“He’s played in this league for a long time, and he’s very reliable,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It was great having him here in 2016. He’s one of the best guys to be around and you want to be around. Whenever he’s played, he’s played well.”
Johnson’s last start came in 2018 as a member of the Washington Football Team, where he finished 12-for-27 with 91 yards and an interception in a Week 17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He made three starts that season, recording 590 passing yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Johnson’s only win as a starter came in 2018 when he led Washington past the Jacksonville Jaguars, 16-13, while throwing for 151 yards and a touchdown.
After Johnson was cut by the Detroit Lions in 2019, he joined the Los Angeles Wildcats in the XFL, where he threw for 1,076 yards, 11 touchdowns and a pair of interceptions before the league suspended operations in April 2020.
In college, Johnson played under Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, at the University of San Diego. Johnson, a two-time Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Year, had 3,320 passing yards and a passing efficiency rating of 169 during his senior season. He was inducted into the University of San Diego Hall of Fame in 2015.
Johnson is also the cousin of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion with the 2013 Seattle Seahawks who ranks 29th all-time in rushing yards.
“I think it’s cool that he’s been in the league a long time, and it feels good just to have a ‘veteran, veteran’ in the room,” Huntley said. “He’ll tell you a little bit different … He’s back learning another playbook, so it’s cool to see how fast he can learn it.”