OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After besting Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor in Week 1, the Ravens figured to play another mobile quarterback in their second game of the season.
Instead, they’ll face a journeyman who’s had their number in recent seasons.
With Cleveland placing starter Robert Griffin III on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, Josh McCown will make the start in the Browns’ home opener on Sunday. Head coach John Harbaugh is well aware of the 37-year-old’s ability as he threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns in a surprising 33-30 win in Baltimore last season.
“I remember this guy just having no conscience and just throwing the ball in there and completing passes against us,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of respect for him. We know what kind of a player he is. We know how good he is, and he’s super good against us. We know we have our hands full. It will be all hands on deck to get ready for the offense led by Josh McCown.”
It’s fair to wonder if the Ravens would have preferred to face Griffin, whose once-promising career has been derailed by injuries and inconsistent play since his Pro Bowl rookie season in 2012. The Baltimore defense did an exceptional job keeping Taylor in the pocket and taking away the deep ball, a strategy that likely would have been employed against a healthy Griffin.
Though spending much of his career as a backup, McCown is a more traditional pocket passer who has hurt the Ravens with his arm over the last few years. Dating back to the 2013 season, he is 2-1 against Baltimore with 885 passing yards, four touchdown passes, and no interceptions.
Harbaugh knows it will also be a challenge facing new Browns head coach Hue Jackson, a one-time Ravens assistant who had much success as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons. Of course, he’s not working with the same talent level in Cleveland as he did with the Bengals.
“Hue Jackson is a ringmaster, so to speak,” Harbaugh said. “He gets in formations, he’s still at it [and] is very creative. He finds ways to attack your defense at your weakest spots. He’s going to formation you. He’s going to motion you. He’s going to run various kinds of routes, various kinds of runs. He’s going to put tackles out, tackles over, tackles in. Everybody is going to be in different spots, and you’re just going to have to find a way to defend all of their play-makers at all times.”
After holding the Bills to seven points and 160 total yards on Sunday, the Ravens hope the defensive improvement accompanies them on the road as they seek a 2-0 start for the first time since the 2009 season. Meanwhile, the rebuilding Browns are trying to regroup after a 29-10 loss to Philadelphia.