It's definitely premature since we've seen only two games from Jimmy Clausen and we've yet to see Ryan Mallett play for the Baltimore Ravens, but this will likely be the most important and interesting story line until the end of the season. The way Baltimore Ravens backup backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen has played in the two games we've seen him in could and should make him a candidate to return in 2016.
A lot has been made of Jimmy Clausen's record as a starting quarterback and that is fair to a point. However, when you think about it though, he hasn't really started in the best of times for either the Chicago Bears or the Baltimore Ravens. This season, he has come in for the Bears and Ravens for two games a piece and has lost all four of them. Then you look at those opponents and you immediately don't think as bad of him. Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks twice, Kansas City Chiefs. Those three teams all have top-10 defenses, so no wonder he's 0-4 this year.
With the Baltimore Ravens, Clausen has proven that in the right system, he can be a performer. Even though his stats don't tell the whole story, he hasn't done terribly. 49 of 85 for 555 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions for a 70.5 quarterback rating. Like I mentioned, the stats aren't necessarily fair to Clausen as against the Chiefs on Sunday, he was interception free until his targeted receiver slipped causing the ball to go directly to a defender. From there, it was garbage time and Clausen had to force balls around to try and get the team back into it again. The same thing can be said about the game against the Seattle Seahawks in week 14 in which the Ravens lost by 29 points and he was forced to heave a few balls that he probably wouldn't normally throw just because the defense couldn't contain Russell Wilson and company.
Before his interceptions against the Chiefs, Clausen was making all the throws you'd like to see a quarterback make. To the outside, timing patterns, deep throws, soft screens; all of the passes were generally on target and gave his receiver time and space to make something happen. So much so that Clausen's stat line was 17 of 27 (62.9%) for 200 yards, 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. His quarterback rating was well over 100 points at that time.
It's worth noting for those that still want to bash Clausen that franchise quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't exactly spectacular this season, even earlier in the year when he had the weapons around him. In the 10 games that Flacco started, he only had 2 with a quarterback rating over 100 points, both teams being bottom half defenses.
Now that's not to knock Flacco at all as his troubles this season were likely more relating to an offensive line that was struggling early, wide receivers that had yet to step up as much as of late, and a new offensive coordinator that was still trying to figure out what he had and what worked with this group. But it does help highlight that even with Clausen's stats not having an asterisk next to them, he is only a few points away from the quarterback rating that Flacco ended his season with.
That is also not to say that Ryan Mallett isn't deserving of the backup quarterback job himself. Mallett has had his issues when he was with Houston, but vowed that those were behind him now. With the Ravens locking him up through 2016, he is the expected guy to back up Flacco next season. Yet, I'm not sure what else you could ask of a backup quarterback than what Jimmy Clausen has done for you.
With both quarterbacks being relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, it might be worth it to the Ravens to bring Clausen back next year and have the two battle it out in training camp for the job. Since Joe Flacco will be rehabbing his ACL and MCL injuries this offseason and will be trying to knock the rust off in camp, having two capable guys around outside of your starter isn't the worst thing to do. From there, you can let one outshine the other and pick from the guy you like best while testing Flacco to see if he is truly ready physically to start week 1. Think of it as quarterback insurance for the worst case scenario and the best backup in the best case scenario.
Either way, unless Jimmy Clausen regresses heavily in the coming weeks, I think he's earned himself a shot at being on the Ravens roster in 2016 as much as any player the team has.