The Baltimore Ravens have lost their top two quarterbacks ahead of a crucial AFC North matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, with superstar Lamar Jackson and backup Tyler Huntley both being ruled out for the December 26 game.
The Ravens announced on December 25 that Jackson would not be traveling with the team to Cincinnati, ending any hope of a sudden recovery from an ankle injury suffered against the Cleveland Browns on December 12. Jackson had not practiced with the team for two weeks, so his unavailability vs. the Bengals was expected, unlike that of Huntley.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported on December 24 that Huntley missed practice with a non-COVID illness, with his colleague Aditi Kinkhabwala adding that the former Utah Ute was still expected to make his third start this season.
But the pair broke the news on Christmas that the Ravens were indeed placing Huntley on the COVID-19 list with less than 24 hours to go before kickoff in Cincinnati, guaranteeing his absence. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley later confirmed that Huntley will be sidelined along with practice squad quarterback Chris Streveler and 13 other Ravens due to COVID-19.
Despite the outbreak in Baltimore, their Week 16 matchup with the Bengals is not expected to be delayed, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun, though additional cases before kickoff could result in an emergency postponement or forfeit.
Josh Johnson To Start In Cincinnati
With Jackson, Huntley and Streveler all sidelined, journeyman Josh Johnson will start at quarterback for the Ravens. He arrived in Baltimore less than two weeks ago, right after Jackson’s injury, and now will attempt to lead the Ravens offense to victory in Cincinnati.
Johnson’s last NFL start was for the now-Washington Football Team in 2018, though he made three appearances for the New York Jets this season. While he only played six snaps across two of those games, he also played 82% of the Jets’ offensive snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9.
While the absences of Jackson and Huntley are certainly sub-optimal, Johnson’s performance in Indianapolis suggests that he’s capable of leading an NFL offense. Much like Jackson did in Week 5, Johnson lit up the Colts for 317 passing yards and three touchdowns, adding 18 rushing yards on four carries in the best performance of his seven-year NFL career.
Still, his lack of experience in Baltimore’s offense will likely lead to some struggles against a Bengals defense that held a healthy Jackson and a less-depleted Ravens team to just 17 points in their first meeting this season.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero later reported that the Ravens also signed Baltimore native Kenji Bahar, who attended Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Maryland. He’s been on and off the team’s practice squad all year, but now he’ll serve as Johnson’s backup in his first taste of NFL action.
Ravens Get Veterans Back From COVID List
The Ravens had several players on the COVID-19 list for their December 19 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but they’ll have at least two of those players back against the Bengals.
Starting safety Chuck Clark was activated on December 25, per the NFL’s official transaction report, and the Ravens announced that veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins would play in Cincinnati as well.
Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Chris Westry are still on the list, as are Justin Madubuike and Geno Stone, who were added on December 22 along with practice squad offensive tackle David Sharpe, leaving Baltimore extremely shorthanded in Cincinnati.